Monday, June 25, 2018

Bear shoulders

Last summer, when the off-the-shoulder everything trend was cooling off but still very cool (FYI, it's far from over, even this summer, but saying it like that enabled me to use two opposing meanings of the word cool in one sentence—cool, right?), I acquired this hand-me-down camisole.

With ruffles taking over the entire front surface, it wasn't quite my style, so I decided it was the perfect candidate for a little fashion surgery. My plan was to remove the ruffles from the front and use them as off-the-shoulder decorations instead.

It has been so long since I worked on this project, and my photos aren't all that informative, that I can't remember how I removed the front ruffles. I think I had to open the front center seam to free the fabric, then re-sew it shut, but it's also possible that I just cut the ruffles very closely and tweezed out any remaining loose threads.
The front ruffles, when removed, formed two long crescent shapes.

I also disconnected the top ruffles on the outer sides of the straps.

I lined up the end of one top ruffle with the end of one front ruffle.
Then I sewed the two ends together!

For my first attempt, I used some glue and an old drawstring to finish and reinforce top edge of the new shoulder ruffle. However, this never really worked well (limited my arm mobility severely!), so I went back and put elastic in place of the drawstring.
I attached the shoulder ruffles to the back where they touched the straps, allowing the edges to overlap, then sewed them down.

The shoulder ruffles were finished, but I still wasn't happy with the front of the blouse. Now that the ruffles were gone, the seam down the front was too noticeable. It looked unfinished.

To make it look more like a feature than a flaw, I attached a string of elastic to the bottom 2/3.

(Shown in picture with the shirt inside out and folded at the front seam.)

This gives the front a ruched look and helps hide the imperfections in the front seam.

I wore this top for the first time shortly after I made it, but for whatever reason, never got around to taking a picture of it. Almost a year later, it finally got out for its second public appearance, at a restaurant called Black Bear. Could there have been a more perfect place to photograph my shoulder-baring blouse? I can bearly believe it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

All of the hippie, none of the cost

If you're looking for hippie clothing, you need look no further than any boutique shopping district, where you're bound to find a store or two specializing in the myriad distinctive fashions that define the flower-child aesthetic. Oh, wait, you're saying that stores in boutique shopping districts charge an arm and a leg for their wares? Well, then you need look no further than your friendly neighborhood secondhand-clothing website,! (as usual, link is a referral link).

From this website, I've managed to acquire a whole host of crocheted, macrame'd, beaded, batik'd, and otherwise earth-mother-approved clothing, at prices even someone living out of a VW Microbus could afford! Today, I was able to combine two of them into one perfect outfit.

On the bottom is a pair of cropped, wide-legged pants. You can tell they're meant for the all-natural set by their cotton material, smocked waist, and waistband tie. What waistband tie, you say? Well, I didn't like the way it looked tied at the front, so I reversed it to tie at the back! I have to say I really like this look, and I might have to try this trick more often!

The pants weren't always cropped; they originally fell quite awkwardly just around my ankles, and looked terrible with almost all pairs of shoes. If you want to see these pants as they were originally intended, they're for sale here for 30$. I got mine for just three! [Fun Fact: These pants are also the source of the coconut sarong tie I used in my multi-purpose poncho outfit!] When I first got them, I wasted a lot of time wetting and stretching them, trying to wheedle a little more length out of them, only to have them revert to their incredibly stumpy original proportions the next time I washed them. 
That was enough of that! This summer, I gave up on ever wearing them as long pants and hemmed them to this new length. Since I made the change reversible, it was a low-risk move, and a good one, because this marks the first time, in the year-plus that I've owned them, that I've ever found them flattering enough to photograph!

It doesn't hurt that the top I wore with them was almost perfectly coordinated. This one, too, bears all the hallmarks of neo-hippie fashion: batik designs on rayon fabric, a sort-of patchwork construction, wooden toggles, and a timeless silhouette. Judging from the style, I suspect that this particular garment is a relic of the 90's, but clothing like this has never been mainstream, so therefore you can wear it in any era without running the risk of looking outmoded (you do run the risk of looking weird, but that's a risk I love to take!). It, too, cost me three dollars.

This top is probably intended to be a vest, meant for layering, but also works on its own, though it's a little low-cut for the office. I wore a beige lace bandeau underneath it for decency, and repeated the flesh tones with (earthy hemp-rope-and-canvas, naturally) beige wedge sandals.

No hippie outfit would be complete without some natural stone jewelry, so it was turquoise to the rescue, which just so happens to match the colors in the clothes!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A blazer, a vest, and a bird-covered dress

This hand-me-down blazer didn't seem a likely candidate for my permanent collection, what with its puffed sleeves and extremely tight fit, but it did have something going for it: a cute neckline. I liked the curved lapels and neatly cinched waist. If I removed the sleeves, I thought it might make a useful vest.

What follows is my favorite method for converting a sleeved shirt into a sleeveless one.

Since the place where the sleeves meet the bodice already comes with a neatly sewn seam, it makes a really nice edge for the new armhole.

Cut off the sleeve, leaving a half-inch or so attached to the bodice.

Sometimes, I double-fold the hem to completely protect the raw edge, but that's finicky, time-consuming, and hard to get right on the first try, so for my own convenience (especially when sewing something I'm not sure I'll like anyway), I usually just leave the raw edge uncovered and zigzag stitch over it to help stop fraying (in the picture, it's the row of stitches on the right—pictured after I'd already finished the project.)

Once the raw edge is somewhat finished, I fold the fabric to the inside of the armhole, pin liberally, and stitch it down with a narrow hem (Photo shows the bottom of one of the armholes after sewing was complete).

Normally, I'd call it finished right about here, but with this particular garment, I wasn't quite done, because it was tight as a corset! To buy myself a little more comfort, I opened up most of the seams around the sides and back. They had been originally made with two rows of stitches (shown in picture), so I removed the innermost row on each of four seams, gaining about an inch of total breathing room.

Since the remaining seams were rather weakly serged, I reinforced each one with a single row of straight stitches.

At the bottom and top of each seam, the construction was a little more complicated. To do it right, I would have had to pick out and re-sew a number of seams. But I did it the lazy way and just left those parts untouched. So if you're looking closely, you can see puckering where the parts I opened meet the parts I didn't open. Later, I may revisit those seams to see if I can taper them more gracefully, but for the vest's first wear, I kept them as-is.

I finished this project in the fall, but I don't have much use for vests in the winter (as I mainly use them to cover up bare shoulders and backless dresses), so the vest's first day of employment came in June, when I wore it to office-ify a spaghetti-strap sundress. 

I love this dress—I love the birds on it and the high-low hemline (even though those have mostly gone out of fashion again) and the way it flows in the breeze...but I'm not sure I love it with this vest. I thought the tailored vest would help anchor the dress into a more business-casual aesthetic, but after wearing the combination for a day, I'm pretty sure they still look like mismatched pieces I tried to kluge together. Maybe I'll try again with a less fanciful dress, but the future's not looking bright for the wearability of this vest.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Pink Lemonade

Pure summer fun, is all I need to say about this outfit!

(But naturally, I'm going to say more!)

The shirt is the only thing I'm wearing that I haven't worn a million times before, but its pinks and yellows are so bright and cheerful, it can't help but make the whole outfit seem exciting!

I combined it with a white skirt, pink wedge sandals (already my most-worn sandals of this summer), and yellow rectangle earrings, which look like they were just made to go with this shirt! Success!

There, all done. I didn't need to say much more after all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Throwaway


Sometimes – frequently – I wear outfits I like to call "throwaways." They're the slacks-and-a-nice-shirt kind of outfits you throw together in two minutes, throw on and wear for a day, and then throw all memory of to the wind. Next to the re-wears and failed experiments, they comprise the vast majority of outfits that don't make it into my blog.

I thought Tuesday's outfit was going to be a throwaway. I've worn this dress more times than I can count, but I've never blogged it. I don't really hate it, but I don't really love it. It's not especially well fitting (#broadshoulderproblems!) but not ugly enough to toss. It's just kind of there, an island of ordinary in a sea of statement pieces, waiting in my closet for a time when I don't feel like putting a much effort into planning my attire.

It was not that time on Monday night. Monday night, I was all gung-ho to find another creative getup to rival the fancy pants I'd worn that day. I was thinking wild colors, some artistic layering, maybe experimenting with something brand new. There was only one problem—I had a meeting in the morning. By now, you've probably got a feel for my office dress code (there isn't one!). I'd be well within my rights to show up to a meeting dressed in any of my craziest clothes. But the self-imposed dress code I place on myself said otherwise. My personal dress code advises, when in a formally scheduled discussion — even with two people who have seen you in your greenest of hair and never batted an eyelid — you should make an effort to direct attention to what you say, not how you look. And that means for a meeting, you need to take down the crazy to at least a 5.

So my dress code dictated conservative; the weather forecast dictated short sleeves; the first item I found in my closet that fit the bill was this green dress.

I've worn this dress so many times, I'm tired of it, but since my options were limited by the circumstances, I decided to settle for the old and trustworthy. Of course, old and trustworthy also means boring, and boring means any outfit featuring it would have to be a throwaway. So I put minimal effort into deciding on shoes and accessories.

The colors of the dress happened to look cute next to the chocolatey shade of an unworn pair of brown sandals I had sitting around, so I decided to go with brown as the accent color, and I was even a little excited about it! The outfit might be a throwaway, but at least it was going to involve a new pair of shoes! I set out all my brown jewelry, and a couple of brown belts, and resolved to pick the best combination of accessories when I got dressed in the morning.

When that time arrived, I decided it was too cold for sandals—so much for the one new and exciting part of my ensemble! I switched to one of my oldest pairs of shoes – my brown high heels – picked one of the belts, decided the necklaces didn't really work with the belt but this pair of carved wood earrings worked perfectly, and headed out the door.

When I arrived at the office, I was wearing a dress that bores me, accessorized with all brown (definitely somewhere near the bottom of the list of interesting colors), and complacent in the belief that my outfit was a solid throwaway. That is, until I happened to glance in the full-length mirror in the bathroom. I actually looked good! (I mean, you know, insert modest qualifiers here...) The dress has a pretty well defined waist on its own, but the belt really enhanced my figure and served to add that missing element of interest to what was formerly just a simple striped dress. I don't often wear belts, but this was a reminder that I should try more often!

Style Tip If you're bored with your shoes, jewelry, toppers, and scarves, try accessorizing with a belt!

Meanwhile, the shoes and earrings added a few more balanced touches of brown, and the height of the shoes seemed just right for the proportions of the clothes.

Maybe was just in a good mood and am inclined to excessive levels of enthusiasm for an ordinary outfit...or maybe this unusually successful outfit was why I was in such a good mood. But either way, Tuesday's outfit felt pretty good, and I'm delighted that my throwaway turned into a keeper!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Fancy Pants

My search for the perfect wide-leg pants continues! This latest pair is probably my favorite find yet, because unlike the butterfly pants and the jade/gold ones, these pants are long enough to wear with heels, and unlike the navy palazzo pants, they are decorated with a veritable riot of colors! Ironically, these strengths are also their downfall, as they are so long, they drag on the ground despite my 3-and-a-half-inch heels, and the colors are so riotous, I had a dickens of a time finding a shirt that looked good with them!

I wore the cardigan most of the day to keep warm, but I much prefer the sleeveless look
that I sported once I took it off in the afternoon.
Ultimately, I decided on an unexciting white sleeveless blouse and white cardigan. I do wish I'd been able to find a necklace or different-colored sweater to break up the vast expanse of white, but I like to match. And as I've mentioned before, geometric shapes aren't really my thing, and the bold shades in the pants are somewhat lacking in my color arsenal. So I settled for a pair of earrings that at least included navy blue.

Despite all the challenges the pants presented, I'm really thrilled to have added them to my wardrobe. I can't wait to step further out of my color and pattern comfort zones to better accessorize them in the future. 'Til next time!