Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Masquerade


New Year, 2014, when I donned my first
(self-decorated, naturally!) masquerade mask.
The Unfashionista loves a good masquerade ball. 

I've only been to one, but liked the idea so much that I started accumulating a collection of masks, "just in case."

The opportunity to bring one into the spotlight finally occurred last weekend, at a friend's recreation of Truman Capote's (I would say "famous," but I'd never heard of it until I got my invitation) Black and White Ball. We were required to wear black and white, and encouraged to bring a mask if the spirit moved us. Of course, I needed no further encouragement, so I set about decorating the fanciest of my masquerade masks, which conveniently at this point was nothing more than a white base.

I had an ostrich feather I'd been hoarding (incidentally, I'm pretty sure I acquired it at the same New Year's party as in the picture), so I hot-glued it to the mask, also wrapping it with fishing line for good measure. The mask had ties to attach it to one's head, but I didn't like what that did to my hairstyle, so I removed those and replaced them with a stick, which is a much more classy way to wear a masquerade mask anyway.

When all was said and done, my mask was one of only two at the party, and no one was actually wearing the other one, so mine stayed in my purse for the duration of the fĂȘte. But here's a picture of me peacocking around in it at home after the event was over.


Alas, my handiwork doomed ever to languish in the darkest reaches of the internet, known only to the elite readers of fashion's best-kept secret—my blog!

Unlike my very secret mask, the outfit I wore got a lot more positive attention. At least 3 people commented that they loved my dress, and at least one of them took enough interest to learn that it wasn't actually a dress, but an amalgamation of three different garments: my FabKids tutu, an old camisole that I cropped and hemmed specifically for this occasion, and a new sheer top with stars that I recently acquired from China/eBay.

Weird neckline, cool design.
Getting the top was quite an ordeal—I ordered one last year, but it got turned back at customs, and the seller declined to send me a replacement (they refunded me). Later on, I decided I wasn't ready to roll over and quit just yet, so I ordered another one in August. This time it arrived, and I have to say it wasn't a bad deal for $1.99. The original neckline was hideous, but I was able to fix that with a few snips of my scissors.

Since it was a black-and-white party, and so far I was wearing only black, I simply had to don my white knee-high boots. Had I been wearing the mask, I would have had a nice sandwich of black and white color (like an inverted Oreo), but I had to settle for some much less noticeable white dangle earrings.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Polka dots and pearls


My no-longer tiered dress, with its spaghetti straps, is not quite appropriate for the office when worn on its own. On the other hand, it's perfect for layering, and layering is perfect for fall.

Today I wore it with a white cardigan on top and white boots on the bottom (an easy way to color coordinate if I ever said so). I was only slightly disappointed to find out that the matching whites I'd picked out in the misty morning turned out not to match quite so well in natural lighting. Even after 5 years of ownership, this sweater is still the whitest of whites, but the boots are yellowing, and showing their age in all sorts of other ways—I fear they are not long for this world!

But one thing in my outfit that's brand spanking new is the earrings! I saw earrings like this on eBay a few months ago. I naturally liked the long dangling chain, and I thought it was cool the way the chain hung from the back of the ear instead of the front. I'm sure they were under 3 dollars, but I decided I would make my own for free! I recently disassembled a long faux-pearl necklace, leaving me with dozens of loose pearls to work with. So I took one of those and a few scraps of salvaged silver chain, attaching them together with a loop-bottom silver pin through the pearl. I used an existing pearl stud for the front, and a jump ring to put the stud pin through. 
 
 
When held together with a standard earring back, the whole assembly is a subtly unconventional way to wear pearls!
 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Floral choker


Frequently I find that when I plan an outfit, I wore almost the exact same thing on almost the exact same date in the past.

Today, I'm about 2 weeks and 3 years behind, but I used this dress and color scheme on September 27, 2014. I even, unknowingly as I was planning the outfit, contemplated wearing the same pair of shoes, but ultimately decided I'd rather wear something newer and lower-heeled, so I went with the olive shoes that I've decided were a very good investment indeed!

This is my second pair of short block heels, (the first being the silver glitter ones), which I'm totally digging since I first noticed them around the end of last year. Another trend from 2016's end-of-the-year post that made it into today's outfit was the choker necklace. I have to say that 2017 has been the year of the choker for me, and I have to say, it was an unexpected development!

If you'd asked me 5 years ago if I would ever be in love with chokers, I would have told you, "No way!" Back then, I liked chokers in theory but felt they were unflattering—especially on me. I felt like they abbreviated my neckline, making me look short and stumpy, and emphasizing the fatness of my cheeks. Maybe my cheeks got thinner, maybe I just got used to the look, or maybe it's my shorter haircut that just works better with a high neckline, but I no longer have a problem wearing chokers. It doesn't hurt that chokers went from being a fringe accessory to a fashionable one. While the trendsetters have moved on to bigger and better things, I still haven't finished exploring the possibilities of fabric chokers. I simply can't resist donning one whenever I can conceivably work one into my outfit, and I keep looking for more exciting choker styles to add to my collection.

Today's choker is the most exciting one yet. No longer just a simple ribbon or velvet band or even a velvet band embellished with a pearl, even more ornate than a mesh collar, today's floral embroidered choker is pretty much the pinnacle of chokerdom.
 
 
It's so tall and bright, it is impossible to miss. Its colors are such that it looks like it could be a part of my cardigan. Its pattern is unlike that of any other choker I've ever seen. It is, unquestionably, the focal point of my outfit.

I paid $1.51 for it on eBay, and I have reason to believe that it is actually an embroidery patch for clothing that some ingenious seller decided to attach to some jewelry chains (it actually had a thick sheet of plastic stuck to the back that I'm pretty sure was an iron-on transfer, which I had to peel off before I could wear it). Hats off to you, ingenious seller! I only wish I had come up with that idea myself. 

However, now that I have worn the pinnacle of chokerdom, I don't really have anything left to aspire to. This might be the last time in a while that I get excited enough about a choker to write a whole blog post about it. I guess it's time to move on to bigger and better things. Hmmm, what are the trendsetters into these days?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Looks like fall


I'm sharing this outfit mainly because I want to discuss the intricacies of dressing for fall, so let's get the outfit description out of the way quickly. It was warm yesterday, so I went with sandals, a very airy cap-sleeve sweater, and a skirt. As far as the construction, it's all summer clothes, but the color choices are another story. With a brick red shirt, a skirt in various dark and rusty hues, and a orange shoes, I'm the very picture of autumn. It was probably one of the last really warm days we'll have this year (yes, I'm still saying that!) so I wanted to dress for the weather but give a nod to fall.

Speaking of fall (hello, artful segue into what I truly wanted to talk about!), I'm really struggling with how and when to make my seasonal switch this autumn.

Though we've had plenty of cold days since the end of August, there has not been a single full week of temperatures below 75 (my usual cutoff point). We came very close, with a 6-day stretch in each of September and October, but then, both times, it bounced right back up into the 80's. I'm getting so bored with my selection of summer clothing, and so tired of trying to figure out new ways to layer long-sleeved tops over my summer dresses, and basically so desperate to make a change... but I just can't bear to put away my summer clothes when summery days are still popping up at least once a week!

To understand why I feel so strongly about holding onto my summer wardrobe at all costs (even though I'm tired of everything in it), you must understand that I really just loathe dressing for cold. 

I'm an (un)fashionista—I put great effort into looking good at all times, and I just don't feel like winter clothes are very flattering. The warmer the fabric, the thicker the fabric...and the thicker the fabric, the bulkier it makes you look. That, compounded with the fact that you're usually covering more of your body, is a recipe for turning the most lithe and graceful form into a hulking blob. And don't even get me started on my massive shoulders—the way things drape off them, it swamps the rest of my body, which means that basically any garment with sleeves is going to add about 3 sizes to my frame.  

But my distaste for winter clothing goes beyond just vanity—it's also a simple matter of quality of life!

I hate wearing clothes with sleeves because they restrict how I can move—I feel confined in them, like I'm a prisoner in my own clothing. If I wear fitted blouses or blazers, I can neither raise my arms fully nor pull them all the way forward. And sleeves are always getting in the way, doing things like dangling into my food while I'm eating and getting soaked when I wash my hands. 

Furthermore, in cool weather, I can never find a level of coverage I'm comfortable with. Although I get cold very easily, I also get sweaty very easily. No matter what I wear, if it's warm enough to keep me warm when I'm sitting still, it's going to be too hot when I'm moving. So in the winter, I'm fighting a constant battle not to sweat all over my sweater and turn into a odorous ogre by lunchtime.

In conclusion, cold-weather clothing stinks. Side note: when people say they're looking forward to fall because they want to wear "cozy sweaters," I sincerely want slap them. If I never had to wear a cozy sweater again in my life, that would be my idea of a perfect world. But alas, the world isn't perfect, cold-weather clothing is a necessary evil, and it's one which I'm going to have to begin wearing in fairly short order.

So when am I going to do it? I don't have to put away my summer clothes before I start getting out my fall ones. I can do a partial switch as I did last spring, saving the new ones until the official week-of-75-degrees cutoff has arrived, but bringing out only last year's transitional clothes earlier. But I need to set a time when it's OK to do the partial switch.

Right now we've had 14 total days with highs under 75 degrees. Should two cumulative weeks be cause to bring out the fall clothes? Should three?

Should I wait until I've worn all of the transitional clothes in my backup stash? The problem with that is I've worn none of them, but they are so boring that I don't want to! The other problem with that, and another factor that I need to rethink as I plan my seasonal wardrobe, is that they are mostly clothing that's entirely unsuited to transitional weather. They are mostly 3/4 sleeve tops. Seems like a good compromise between hot weather (short or no sleeves) and cold weather (full sleeves), right? Not at all! When the weather outside isn't quite frightful, that's when the weather in our basement office is the chilliest—because, as I've mentioned before, it's still warm enough in the upper stories of our building that maintenance will not turn on the heat. In the winter, when I can crank the temperature up to my heart's content, I could easily be comfortable in short sleeves. But in the fall, when I'm at the mercy of the people on the fourth floor, I have to wear long sleeves and gloves! (I blame that on my desk, which seems to just suck the heat right out of any skin touching it). So really, my 3/4 sleeve tops are the worst possible choice for this time of year—too skimpy on their own, but too bulky to layer over.

Right now I'm thinking that I'll go ahead with the full switch as soon as there are no more days predicted to be warmer than 80 degrees. That might be as soon as this Sunday. Until then, I'm sure I can get by, if needed, on knit caftan tops, arm warmers, and lots of layering. And if I decide to change my mind and define another threshold, well, it won't be the first time, and it probably won't be the last.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Flower / Child




Let me start off by saying how much I love this dress! Look at its quintessential hippie print, and its Unfashionista-approved array of colors! The mix of earth tones and pastels is weird, but it works, and it provides a versatile backdrop for accessorizing in almost any hue!

This dress was a hand-me-down, and its life with me got off to a rocky start when I discovered the straps gaped in a most bizarre fashion right over my chest. Although I'd never dealt with a problem like this before, it was actually easy to fix with just a simple horizontal dart.
Left: Weirdly gaping shoulder strap at 3:00. Right, no gape! (reversed because the first picture was taken in a mirror)
From thence, it was on to endless flower-power fun!

I wore this dress once in the summer, pairing it with a perfectly coordinated set of light green sandals. I didn't think I'd have a chance to wear it again, but the weather has been merciful and graced us with another October day in the 80's! Even though the highs are delightful, it's still chilly in the mornings (and in our basement office), so I topped the outfit with a brown sweater.

In a reflection of the colorful patterns on the dress, I wore a silver medallion with pastel gemstones.

The most exciting part of the outfit is, as is often the case, the shoes. Today I'm wearing some lavender and white platform oxfords that I got last spring, thinking pastel purple would be a great addition to my shoe collection. As is often the case, it wasn't. Nothing seemed to go with them! When spring waned and summer arrived, I decided to shelve them until fall, so that I'd have something new and cheery to wear when the weather turned depressing. Well, the weather is not depressing, but fall is here, and I'm struggling to find stuff to wear with my summer clothes, so why not these? This dress is one of the only things I've found in my wardrobe that doesn't outright clash with the shoes.

However, I found that even though the colors work together, the styles don't. The shoes have a childlike, prissy vibe, while the dress is a little more bold and daring. The whole day, I felt like I was one person on top, and a different person from the knees down. I also didn't like the way my ankles looked sticking out of the shoes...but I also didn't like the way they looked with anklet socks! I just can't seem to win with these shoes!

While the dress and shoe combo may have been less than stellar, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love this dress!

Friday, September 29, 2017

If the shoe's fixed, wear it!


It feels like it was just a few months ago that I lost my reliable old brown flats to the ravages of old age. That was a shock to me, since I can't even remember the last time I didn't have a basic pair of chocolate brown flat shoes at my disposal. Fortunately, I never had to resort to painting shoes on my feet, because shortly after I got rid of my old ones, a friend offloaded her old ones on me! Hers were not in quite as terrible shape as mine, so once again, I was ready to rock the brown at a moment's notice.

When I actually did (September 6, I remember it well), it was a mistake. The shoes that had felt comfortable when I tried them on proved much too small once I got them to the office. I walked in them to a meeting across campus and back again, and by the end of my journey, I had a blister on one heel and a gaping wound on the other. In addition, one of the heel covers was completely missing, which caused me to slip and slide around on the terrazzo floors as though they were made of ice!

Before I wore these shoes again, I was going to have to whip them into shape! (And also, wait for my heels to heal!)

My first step was to make the shoes a little more comfy on my feet. I'm usually loath to make a permanent destructive alteration to any still-usable item of apparel, but these shoes were in too bad of a shape even to donate, so I figured that whatever I did, it would be better than consigning them directly to the landfill.

So, using a pair of heavy-duty wire cutters, I snipped a few notches into the tops of the heels. I hoped this would loosen them enough that they wouldn't mutilate my oversized feet. 
This did help. They no longer cut into my heels when I wear them...now they just slide off with every step. I can never win!

Next, I had to fix the matter of the missing heel cover—which is not its official name. Apparently the rubber pieces that cover the bottom of the heel are called "lifts." Learn something new every day!
Ebay is my usual source for high heel tips. I can buy a bag of a dozen for a couple of bucks and repair untold numbers of shoes! However, when it came to replacing the sole of this wider-heeled shoe, eBay let me down. The best I could find was pre-cut rubber sheets suitable for one or two men's shoes, for no less than 3-4 dollars! What!? For just a few more dollars, I could replace the shoes entirely! Not a worthwhile expense.

I decided instead I would have to get crafty. All I needed was a sheet of some plastic or rubber material, a couple of millimeters thick and a few centimeters wide on each side. What did I have lying around that could meet those criteria? Hmmm, how about the sole of another shoe?

Fortunately, a different friend had also recently unloaded a pair of shoes on me, and those shoes, being not even close to my size and even more beat-up than the first pair, had gone straight into the shoe-recycling bag (a store near my house has a shoe recycling bin, which I fortunately had not had time to visit recently). I fished them out and set to work detaching the heel lift.

I wedged a flat-head screwdriver into the gap between the rubber and the rest of the heel, and the rubber peeled right off! It was easy, perhaps because the fibrous material comprising the next layer of the heel was dry and crumbly with age. 

The lift had been affixed with 4 short nails, so I levered those out with my wire cutters and set them aside.

I scraped off as much of the residual heel material as I could, then laid my shoe onto the now-detached rubber heel lift. I tried to align their curved edges so I'd have to do as little shaping as possible.

I traced around the shape of my shoe's heel, then I cut the rubber, again using the wire cutters. This was a little harder because I couldn't get them easily around the curves, but I couldn't think of any other cutting tool that would do a faster or neater job. 

I decided I would use a combination of glue and shoe nails to attach the lift to its new home. The heel was made of plastic, and many portions of it were hollowed out, so I marked 4 spots on the lift that would line up with non-hollow areas on the heel—these were where the nails would go. Then I used E6000 to glue the lift onto the heel.

I braced the shoe on an old block of wood I found in the shed, and hammered in the nails, which was very challenging since my fingertips were bigger than the nails! 
Somehow, I managed without smashing any fingers, but alas, the nailheads never really sunk into the rubber the way I had hoped. I guess the plastic of the heels was too tough for the nails to really dig into. 

 Once the glue had dried, I added one more finishing touch—some color. The insides of the shoes were a pale cream color, and somehow, they had started to turn over and show on the outside. 
Using a brown Sharpie, I colored these visible parts to make them less noticeable while the shoe was being worn.

And success! I wore the newly repaired shoes for a full day at work, and I'm pleased to say that they did not give me any blisters.
Fini-toe!
On the downside, however, at some point around lunchtime, the heel lift fell off the other shoe and vanished, basically leaving me back at square one, slip-sliding around on raw plastic for the remainder of the afternoon. And thus, I had another opportunity to perfect my cobbling skills!

I co-opted the other heel lift from the extra pair of shoes in much the same way as the first. The shape came out a little more off-kilter thanks to my lazy wire-cutter technique, and I probably would have taken the time to smooth the rubber into a neater shape if these shoes hadn't already been on their last legs.

Unlike last time, I didn't bother to nail on the new heel lift, just coated it liberally with E6000 and let it dry. This glue-only fix did indeed hold up to real-life usage, as I wore them all day today without a hitch. They even stayed on despite being used to pedal my bicycle, which I suspect was their downfall the last time I wore them.

Lessons learned from my first foray into the art of cobbling:

  • New shoe-repair rubber is ridiculously expensive—but old worn-out shoes are a perfect source for this material. Next time you're tempted to throw away a pair of shoes, maybe keep them with your craft supplies instead!
  • Shoe nails don't work on the type of plastic used in cheap heels.
  • Using wire cutters to shape the rubber for shoe soles is a terrible idea. What is a better tool? I'm not exactly sure yet, but I might try a utility knife next time around.
  • While shoe-stretching only works on real leather, it is possible to make a too-small pair of synthetics larger (if you don't mind damaging them) by cutting them at strategic points.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Leafy Greens


Yesterday it hit a high of 87 degrees, which was the kind of glorious weather I don't expect to see much more of this year. Of course, I keep saying that. But this time, it's the last few days of September, and it's a lot more likely to be true.

So with that in mind, let's enjoy one last ode to summer with a light and bright, green leafy dress!

This dress has been worn once since I got it at the thrift store over the summer. Although I really love the fit and the pattern, its neckline originally stymied me, as it had those annoying little short ties that are meant to make a cute bow at the bottom of the neck, but more often than not just stick straight up and make you look like you never learned to tie a knot.

Rather than having a lopsided bow ruin my day, I crossed the two ties over each other and hand-stitched them back along the neckline, for a lower-maintenance, but still frilly look. Can you tell that the neckline was altered? I kind of like it this way!

Feeling a bit lazy after all that work, but wanting to wear shoes that were distinctive in some way, I decided on these flatform sandals, which are low enough to be comfortable but high enough to be interesting, in spite of being beige.

So long, summer!... For real, this time?