Friday, January 31, 2020

Maximum skirt, minimum work

This dress, among many others of the same style, was recently gifted to me by a friend. The busy floral print was right up my alley, but not the lack of straps...and the length, which hovered just above my ankles, wasn't doing it for me. Office chair inconveniences be damned—I like my long skirts floor length or bust!

When faced with a dress that's a dowdy length, you have two options: make it shorter, or make it into a skirt! Because I'd been bemoaning the relative lack of long skirts in my winter collection, I went with the latter.

I picked a length that would just skim the floor if I wore it at waist height with flat shoes, but could be pulled down lower on my hips if I wanted to wear it with heels.

I cut off the bottom and then made another pitiful attempt at a rolled hem. This one was so bad that, out of the entire bottom hem of the skirt, probably only 5 inches in total are actually rolled under. Ugh! I'll have to redo the hem very soon, but it should be good for one trial wear anyway. I watched some videos on how to use a rolled hem foot, so next time I'll be ready! In theory.

The liner was now longer than the skirt, so I zigzag-stitched a line about 5 inches from its bottom edge, then cut off below that. I'm beginning to think I should patent this technique—The Unfashionista's Lazy Overlock! It's quick and dirty, but good enough for a liner that won't be seen and won't fray much even if left unfinished.

The last step was to convert the smocked bodice into a waistband. I considered leaving it as-is (like I did with the striped tube dress) but this one was thicker (thus harder to double over), and I wasn't likely to ever wear this one as a dress. So I cavalierly chopped off half the smocking, right below one of the horizontal stripes of contrast stitching.

I briefly considered trying to sew the resulting raw edge down in some way, but ultimately I decided that it might be cute if I just let it fray down to the next contrasting stripe. Strategic fraying! A favored technique of lazy sewists everywhere!

One more little thing. Because I really liked the print (and mayhaps because I wanted to redeem myself for all the corner-cutting I did in this project!), I decided to salvage the fabric I'd removed. I folded it in half lengthwise, sewed along the edge, turned it inside out, and came up with a ribbon-like belt or sash or what-have-you. Should be fun for accessorizing with, if this skirt survives all the injustices I've done it.

But for the first wear of my new skirt, I left the flashy sash at home, because I wanted to wear a statement sweater instead!

The golden yellow cardigan is a current darling of my closet, which means – much like the literary darlings that writers are admonished to kill – it doesn't really work anywhere! It's a lovely color (mustard: I currently have a thing for it), but to top it all off, it's got colorful embroidery and green sequins! The problem is, the cropped length makes it a pretty awkward pairing with almost any type of bottoms, and the deep V-neck necessitates a second layer underneath. I've only been able to wear it two times in the two years that I've owned it, so I was positively thrilled to find that my new skirt made it possible for a third time!
The gaudy embroidery on the sweater, for a change, actually complemented the print on the skirt rather than clashing with it (there's even a pink flower on each that's almost a perfect match!). And the high waist of the skirt neatly abutted the bottom edge of the cardigan, meaning there was no awkward gap I'd have to fill with just the right color. Win win win!

With a success this smashing on my first attempt, I don't even know if it's worth trying to finish this skirt and wear it again. How could I top this outfit?

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Hiked up boots

You know what's a silly idea? Taking a traditional utilitarian shoe and sticking a high heel on it.

You know something I love? Wearing a traditional utilitarian shoe with a high heel on it! Over the years, I've found plenty of stylish ways to wear sneakers with heels (Peep my "Sporty Stripes" post for a recap!), and now it's time (finally!) to expand my reach to hiking boots.

Heeled hiking boots (or should I say, "hiked up" hiking boots?) are no new thing under the sun—as long as I've been a shoe collector, there's almost always been at least one pair for sale at my favorite shoe-shopping outlets. However, when faced with the option to buy a pair, I've always declined, my reasoning being that the excessively rugged look would clash with my excessively feminine tastes—at least for the significant proportion of outfits which I'd normally pair with heels.

That finally changed when I found this green pair at the thrift store for a little under 4 dollars. At that price point, I was a lot more comfortable taking a chance on them than I would have been with a higher-priced pair of new ones. Plus, the green color – muted though it may be – was a major selling point in a field saturated with browns and blacks. I'd been wanting a pair of green ankle boots; why not these?

For the boots' first wear, I paired them with some dark skinny jeans in the same colorway, a beige layered tunic, and my eminently useful green heart jewelry set.

Taken as a whole, the outfit is not particularly memorable, but in addition to being my first foray into heeled hiking boots, it also demonstrates a new styling technique I've been enjoying of late: letting your pants bunch up at the bottom.

Ever since ankle boots surpassed knee-highs as the shoe of choice to wear with skinny jeans, I've been having a problem: my jeans are never quite skinny enough to fit neatly into the boot! More often than not, they ride up slightly and then pooch out just a tad, right above the top of the boot shaft (Here's a good example). It's not a dramatic effect; it's not enough to make me swear off tucking my jeans into my low boots; just enough to really, really grate on me once I started noticing it.

One solution is to roll up the hem of your pants so that they completely clear the top of the boots. This is a popular technique, but it only works on certain styles of pants. They have to have the right height, width, and amount of taper, or else the cuff will look stupid. Many times, I've attempted a cuffed hem and given up in utter despair.

But then, I learned from trusted fashion publications that it has become stylish to wear your pants long and let them bunch up at the bottom—without even attempting to stuff them into your boots. What a game-changer this has turned out to be!

For today's outfit, I tried both the rolled cuff and the bottom-bunch and decided the latter was infinitely preferable. While the rolled cuff competed too much with the sweater cuff already on the boot, the bunched pants fit right in...and they completely covered my leg (no chilly ankles!) Generally, I think this styling is more effective with straight-leg jeans (another up-and-comer, they say!), but it worked just well enough with my slightly loose skinny jeans to meet my approval.

Just for reference, below the picture below shows what these pants would have looked like if I tucked them into my boots, vs. how I wore them today. For me, even though the scrunching looks sloppy, it looks artfully sloppy, which I prefer to the unintentional "wasp-waist" effect I tend to get when tucking the pants in.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Big ol' boots

Wide-shaft boots are one of the fashion trends I've been informed are bubbling up this year. I don't know if these gargantuan white foldover boots fit the category, but whether they do or not, I'm glad I got them.

Ever since my last two pairs of white dressy boots bit the dust, I've been craving a replacement. In an attempt to keep my shoe collection under control, I tried to make various other shoes stand in their stead, but eventually I accepted that there is no comparison to a sophisticated, high-heeled, pure white boot.

They are surprisingly hard to find, though. When I searched online, my findings were almost totally limited to ankle and mid-calf boots. There were a few taller options, but they were mostly described as "bone," which is not the optic white my aesthetic sense required. I hesitated long and hard before investing in this oversized, rather oddly shaped boot I found on Shoedazzle...but the actual name of the style is "No Regrets," and it proved to be true.

I love these boots. They are just the kind of maximalist footwear I live for, but even with their over-the-top silhouette, they are solid in color and texture, so they go with pretty much everything (except midi skirts—too chunky for that!).

Today I wore them with my Friday uniform of late: skinny jeans and a sweater (now that skinny jeans are on the "classic" end of the fashion spectrum, I've been finding them the perfect choice for casual days at work). This outfit is almost a reproduction of "Lavender Fields" from 2 years ago, except I'm wearing purple pants instead of pink and these new white boots instead of the older ones. What can I say? When it works, it works!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Partying like it's 1999

A funny thing happened in the last month of 2019: I became obsessed with the fashion of the 90's.

It all started with a  "trance classics" dance party that I attended shortly before Christmas. Now, the heyday of trance music occurred in the late 90's and early 2000's, so I felt like the perfect outfit for an all-old-school trance party would be something from around that era.

I looked to online stills from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as my inspiration, and eventually came up with a cute combo of cami + straight skirt + knee-high boots + butterfly necklace. It combined several distinctive looks of the turn of the millennium, in a conservative sort of way—the trance classics party was only on the top floor of a club that was otherwise just doing business as usual, so I didn't feel like going for the obnoxiously retro raver look. Sadly, I didn't even get a chance to take off my coat before we left, and definitely didn't get a picture.

Un-sadly, I had another chance to pull off a 90's ensemble just a couple weeks later, when a friend invited me to a 90's dance party! Also very fortunately, 2 days before the party, a different friend unloaded a huge collection of secondhand clothes on me, including a quintessentially 90's plaid skirt.

It made the perfect centerpiece to my Clueless-inspired outfit. I wore a cropped cardigan on top and over-the-knee socks on the bottom. You can't do 90's without a choker, so I wore my pink one with the dangling pearl, and pearl earrings. I thought it a very prim and proper, Cher Horowitz-approved jewelry selection.

I even put two barrettes in the side of my hair and tried to curl it under in the best approximation of "The Rachel" I can wheedle out of my very straight, blunt-cut locks.

This time, I finally made the effort to get a photo before even leaving the house!

Success! — but in planning for the parties, I came up with another retro outfit, evoking the early aughties, that I simply can't wait to wear. Now that it's 2020, it's officially time to start being sentimental about the first decade of the millennium. 2000's parties, here I come!

Trends of the teens

Since I started insisting that all the trends in my year-in-review fashion post had to have been actually witnessed by me somewhere other than someone else's trend report, the list has grown a lot shorter...which is fine, because that means I have more space to dig way back into previous years! I'm pretty excited, since, as long as I've been doing my annual trend reports, this is the first one that will mark the turn of not only the year, but a decade!

But let's start simple, with some of the stuff I've seen in 2019!

Square toes 

My favorite trend of the year has to be square-toed shoes. I rhapsodized about my excitement for the style all the way back in May, and I'm thrilled to announce that the boxy toe has stayed strong right into boot season! I suppose I (and the rest of the world) will get tired of it just like the last time it was in fashion, but I hope that takes a good long while!

Chunky acrylic jewelry

Here's one trend I had plenty of opportunities to shop in 2019—fat geometric acrylic hoops seemed to dominate the earring selection this year. In a similar vein, huge barrettes also cropped up everywhere—frequently covered in pearls. While usually bigger is better, somehow I just can't get on board with the strange merging of hard shapes with soft edges, and natural colors in unnatural plastic, and just, so much bigness! It's like ... a baby's toy, but fashion!

Totally tubular shoulders

I've been cringing and hoping it wasn't true, but there is no longer any denying it: 80's shoulders are back and as big as ever! These aren't the cute little puffed sleeves of circa 2005—no, these are monstrous legs-of-mutton and shoulder pads that need their own area code. I personally haven't seen anyone rocking the voluminous styles, but I chalk that up to never getting invited to holiday parties. It seemed that there were plenty of them available to buy, and formalwear was where the trend really blew up (like a balloon!).

Questionable Mentionables

That's only three trends this year, but honestly, I think that's it. I saw "shield" sunglasses everywhere during Paris Fashion Week, but I never see them in stores, so it must have been an insiders-only thing. Something in September prompted me to say that "eclipse" motifs were big, but I haven't seen a single such image since then, so I think it was my imagination. The style publications tell me that heeled flip flops are having a moment, and much as I want that to be true – after all, I called it – I haven't seen any evidence of it IRL. Huge puffy headbands √† la the Renaissance are all over fashion and shopping websites but don't seem to be on anyone's actual head. Clearly this has been a slow year for actual developments in fashion.

The Decade in Review

So let's move on back into the past, when things were a lot more interesting, and talk about what made the 2010's the 2010's. For starters, definitely skinny jeans. And leggings. 10 years from now, all the kids attending "10's parties" will be giggling uncontrollably at their sausage-casing calves, but for now, it is still totally normal, and has been that way for so long I almost forget that everyone used to wear nothing but flares. While sticking your Spandex-clad legs into knee-high boots seems to have become pass√© by now, it was ubiquitous for enough of the decade that I think it qualifies as iconic. As far as shirts go... You know how in the 90's we had tiny spaghetti strap camisoles, and then in the 2000's, it was all about the wife beaters? Well, in the 2010's, the top pick for tops was the loose, flowy tank—bonus points if you wore it in a half-tuck. Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the advancements in technology that allowed pretty much anything to be digitally printed on pretty much anything. While everyone is by no means walking around in custom graphics 24-7, I think we will look back on the past decade as the dawn of a new era in printed apparel.

Do I have predictions for the decade ahead? Well, though I was wrong about tall socks taking over in 2019 (not saying they didn't; just saying I didn't notice if they did!), I'm still going to take a stab at the forecasting game...and this year, I'm looking at my hands—specifically, hands that I hope will soon be rocking totally non-functional lace gloves. If 80's shoulders have returned, surely their counterparts the mesh gloves can do it too!

Lastly, I'm thinking that it's been a long time since fitted shirts were truly trendy. Sure, we've got some really skimpy clubbing outfits that cling like a second skin, but in general, the last decade has been far too focused on boxy, top-heavy, figure-hiding tops. They're great for shoulder mobility, but not at all flattering on me. After 10 years, it's probably about time for the pendulum of fashion to swing back towards the slim-fitting end of things. My hope and wish for the 2020's is that I'm right!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Classic Blue

In keeping with recent tradition, I once again wore an outfit highlighting Pantone's Color of the Year for the first day of the new year (and decade—what an occasion!).

This year's color is a boring one if I do say so myself: "Classic Blue." If ever a color that's not beige, brown, black, or white could be considered a neutral, Classic Blue would be it—the color of denim, corporate logos, Powerpoint backgrounds, and everything else that's dependable and unexciting.

For a first outfit of the year, I guess unexciting is acceptable—especially considering that my New Year's Eve was a wild night spent in a smashing all-silver getup that filled my quotient for thrilling clothes for many days to come. The night, which didn't end for me until after 4 AM, was, in fact, so thrilling that I forgot to take a picture of my outfit, so you'll never see the metallic masterpiece that I assembled.

Instead, content yourself with this perfectly pedestrian Pantone creation. Every single garment I'm wearing is some shade of blue, although I think the most "classic" of the hues is probably the center of the embroidered flowers on my jeans, which can be seen a lot better in this photo from 2 years ago, when they were also the centerpiece of an all-blue outfit.

I guess one good thing about Classic Blue, its complete lack of novelty notwithstanding, is that you can assemble an entire outfit in shades of it, and no one will even notice that's what you're doing!