Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Rosie the Office Worker

I was finally – finally! – able to get out my spring clothes over the weekend (after a maddening series of false starts by Mother Nature), which means a wider selection of short-sleeved tops to choose from. Now, nothing in my transitional collection is ever "new," because when I do get new clothes, I either keep them out for the current season or pack them away for next summer/winter so I can reveal them all at one glorious time, so generally getting out my spring clothes is not a source of much excitement.

However, one thing in my transitional wardrobe that still feels fresh to me is this navy blue blouse with tiny white polka dots, which I think I've only worn once since it was given to me last year. I picked it out instantly from all the other pieces in my closet, finding it both office-ready and slightly playful—the perfect shirt for the first spring-clothes day at work!

I hear that red is a trendy color this year, and to my mind, polka-dots and red go together like Minnie and Mouse, so I next sought for red accessories to brighten up this otherwise bland-colored top. My red platform pumps were an obvious choice. I was getting a rather vintage vibe from the puffed-sleeve, polka-dotted top, so I denied my first instinct to wear my red chandelearings in favor of a red neckerchief. With this bandanna as my accent, I was starting to feel like a Rosie-the-Riveter wannabe.

I had planned to wear my long-beloved white sailor pants with this outfit (what is more vintage than a sailor suit?) but alas, they were not long enough to work with my 5-inch heels, so I compromised with boring ankle-length khaki trousers. Probably for the best, as they tone down a rather costumey outfit into something more subdued for the office.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Jeans at work

In case you missed it, all of my blog post titles for the entire month of March started with the letter D. It began as a fluke, when I noticed I had inadvertently written the first 3 titles in this fashion (My last post in February started with D as well). But after that, I couldn't not continue! It was a little bit of a struggle coming up with D-words (thank goodness for "DIY"), so I'm relieved that April has arrived and I can go back to titling my posts with whatever clever (or un-clever, in today's case) phrase pops into my mind first!

Now, to segue into the topic of this post, let's travel back in time to early in my D-Days, when I happened to comment on the fact that I have been embracing a more casual aesthetic in the workplace of late. I'm ready to discuss this topic at greater length! Remember when I used to complain that jeans were the last thing I'd ever choose to wear to the office? Well, my, how times have changed! It might be a phase (much like my obsession with blazers in 2013), but right now, denim feels like the freshest way to express myself in the office (it may also just be an manifestation of my exhaustion with trying to look cute when the weather's cold).

I have planned out a couple of work outfits for the next few weeks, and my favorite ones of them all feature jeans. The tops that I never wanted to wear again somehow became exciting when I put jeans on the bottom. I work in a casual workplace, so why not make the most of it? Why bother with my unflattering "professional" pants, and fussy, hard-to-wear skirts, when I can look better and feel happier in a pair of creatively styled jeans? 

Case in point: today's green silk blouse, which is a new one from Swap.com, would have looked ladylike and lovely paired with a skirt, or classic business-casual worn with black trousers. However, I didn't want to look ladylike or businesslike. I wanted something different and unexpected. So along with my elegant blouse (and over-the-top ornate earrings), I wore a pair of well worn blue jeans and some chunky-soled forest green oxford shoes. 

Thus I combined ladylike with aggressively masculine, and fancy with utterly casual. And I had fun doing it! Expect to see more jeans in my workplace future...at least until my next fleeting passion strikes.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


I wasn't planning on blogging this (extremely simple, quintessentially corporate) outfit until, near the end of the day, it occurred to me that it would look undeniably charming on a backdrop of bright spring flowers.

Although the weather threw the plant kingdom a curveball this spring (warming up to summery levels and tempting the spring flowers to peep from their winter sanctuaries a little early, then blasting them with snow and ice) at least a few daffodils have managed to retain their regal aspect.

I found a garden in the back of a church that was just perfect for a vernal photo shoot, where I posed with my brilliant yellow dress and matching high heels, sporting a classy but flashy necklace.

That's about all I have to say about today's look. It's the flowers that are the real stars of the show!

I say the flowers are the stars of the show, but....

Monday, March 27, 2017

Done with winter DIY!

The weather took a turn for the better this weekend, permitting me to wear this fantastical fish outfit! It was an unplanned last-minute DIY that made me really happy, even if the picture quality is kind of bad. Sorry, late night lighting combined with copious amounts of alcohol do not make for great photography!

I started with a fashion challenge. My mission was to come up with an outfit for a house party in the colors blue and red. The challenge was compounded by the fact that the weather forecast for the day was 74 degrees, but almost all my warm weather clothing is still in storage! Fortunately among the T-shirts that I kept out throughout the winter, I had thisT-shirt with a tattoo-style red koi fish on a blue background. I also had a pair of red pants.

When I tried on the shirt with the red pants, I wasn't impressed with the fit. The shirt had always been surprisingly big for a small and had an outrageously deep neckline. So I decided that, since I had a little time, I would lower the shoulder seam to bring up the neckline and shorten the sleeves.

I didn't think to take pictures of this quick and dirty alteration in progress, but essentially I just sewed a new shoulder seam and continued it down the sleeves so there is now a seam at the top of the sleeves.

This required me to remove part of the neckline binding, shorten it, and reattach the two parts of it at the new shoulder seam. It looks terribly messy from the inside, and not quite perfect from the outside, but beggars with a tomorrow-morning deadline can't be choosers!

In the morning, with about 2 hours before we were planning to leave the house for the rest of the day, I checked the forecast again—it had gone up to 77 degrees! The difference between 74 and 77, for me, is the difference between pants and shorts, so I was delighted to trade in my somewhat ill-fitting red pants for my sleek and shiny red satin shorts!

By a stroke of luck, I had, at the end of summer, decided to keep these shorts easily accessible, which I don't ordinarily do, usually reserving just a few plain black or denim pairs of shorts for my winter back-of-the-closet collection. I think I had planned to wear these red ones to a concert which I never actually attended. In any case, I was glad I'd kept them around, because I finally got to wear them, and turn my blue-and-red outfit from just an everyday frumpy getup to something much more flashy!

The problem was, the pants were too flashy. They outshone the rather muted fish and looked out of place. I decided I needed to bring the fish up to the level of the pants by adding some glitter!

I used Elmer's School Glue, so I could wash off the glitter if it turned out to be a total travesty, but fortunately it didn't! (Unfortunately, I still used Elmer's School Glue, so I can never wash this project!)

I put a plastic bag inside the shirt so I wouldn't accidentally glue the two halves of it together.

Then I put down glue on the curves of the fish's scales, along its back where it looked like light would reflect if it were 3-dimensional, then I sprinkled the shirt with glitter.

This photo is from a day later, after some of the glitter had had a chance to fall off

Then it was waiting time. Then it was time to leave, and still the glue wasn't dry enough. I brought the shirt with me, dangling it over the back of a car seat, while my boyfriend and I ran errands, and then finally, right before we arrived at the party, I changed into it.

The glitter was the perfect counterpoint to the shiny shorts!

I wore the outfit with red embroidered Chinese slippers, which, with the koi (favored subject of much traditional Chinese and Japanese art), ended up giving me a very Asian-inspired look. The Japanese chin sitting on the couch next to me certainly doesn't hurt.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Do-It-"Ewe"rself Graphic Fuzzy Sweater

For a long while now, I've been thinking it would be nice to have a graphic sweater or two. Sweaters are pretty great. They're flexible and comfortable, but for whatever reason, they have an office-appropriate vibe (even when adorned with graphics) that other knitwear like sweatshirts and tees do not. The sad thing about sweaters (at least mine) is they are pretty much always a solid color or a simple repeating pattern, leaving very little in the way of visual interest. I have seen sweaters with pictures on them—just never in the price range of an Unfashionista!

Finally a few months ago, I had an idea that I should keep my old sweaters for crafting, instead of trying to sell them (very unsuccessfully, I might add—why didn't I think of this sooner?). The plain white one with the grey flecks would be the perfect neutral backdrop for an add-on graphic!

Drawing on supplies and knowledge passed down to me by my late grandparents (my grandma was an avid knitter, and it was her multicolored yarn that I used for this project; while my grandpa taught me how to make hooked rugs), I fashioned myself a 3-dimensional sheep sweater!

It came out so well that I think I can make a proper tutorial out of it! So without further ado, here's how to make a sheep sweater for "ewe!"

You will need:

  • A sweater
  • Yarn, in at least two colors
  • Scissors
  • A latch hook
  • A tapestry needle
Create a template for the sheep's body and place it on the sweater. I would share the one I made, but I ended up modifying it so much as I worked that it's basically an entirely different shape! 

You can hold it on with safety pins for the time being.

Next, you'll need to prepare your yarn for hooking. You can use pre-cut rug yarn, but I think that will produce a little too deep of a pile for a sweater. I just cut my yarn on the fly, and had to cut more a number of times as I worked. I found 4 cm to be a good length for each strand. Cut a lot of pieces—I estimate I used at least a couple hundred on my sheep.

Latch-hooking on a sweater

Now it's time to get latch-hooking!

Even if you have used a latch hook before, you might have to modify your technique a little since most hooked rugs use a grid as the backing rather than a thick sweater knit. Here's how to latch-hook on a sweater.
With the right side of the sweater facing up, poke your hook into the knit and back up on the other side, very close to the original entry point. Try to get two threads where they twist together. If you only get one, you might snag it and start unraveling the knit. If you get more, you'll capture too much fabric, making your knot poorly formed. This means you'll have to go in at a diagonal, rather than a vertical as you do in a traditional hooked rug.

Now take one of your cut pieces of yarn, and fold it in half over the bottom of your hook.

Grab the tail ends of the yarn and close the latch over them.
Pull the tool back through the sweater. This will bring the tail ends of the yarn through the loop made by the folded part, effectively tying the yarn into a knot with two trailing ends! I call these ends "tassels"—I don't know if there is a better term for them.

Tug on the ends of the tassels to tighten the knot.

And that's all there is to latch-hooking on a sweater!

If you've never used a latch hook before and you're having trouble figuring this out, it might be helpful to check out a latch-hooking tutorial with a simple canvas backing, so you can better see how it works. Here's a nice written tutorial with pictures, or if you prefer, a video one!

Now you'll just want to do that same trick over and over and over again, forming the shape of your sheep's body!

Start by marking the sheep's outline. Instead of marking the fabric permanently with ink or chalk, I used knots of yarn to mark key points on the body.

Then fill in with more knots...so many knots! This stage took me about 4 days of working an hour or two at a time! You can use your own judgment as to how far apart to space the knots. I tried to work in staggered rows, with one knot sitting just above the space between the two knots below it, but in the end, the positioning wasn't very important, and I had to go in and fill in a few sparse spots later anyway.

As you can see, I started with blue, yellow, white, and pink knots. But I felt the blue stood out a little too strongly, so about this far into the project, I took out all the blue knots and replaced them with knots of the paler colors.

Fixing mistakes

When I had finished the body, I found that my sheep looked much more elongated than the original template. I'm not sure how it happened, but I had to make a few adjustments to get a fatter, fluffier looking sheep.

First I laid the template back on top of my work, noting that there were some definite areas of overflow on the left and right.

I stuck some pins into the pile at intervals around the outline of the template.

Upon removing the template, the pins marked where the sheep's body should be. I trimmed then removed the knots that were outside the intended borders. Then, for good measure, I added a little more volume to the belly area.

Embroidering the details

Once the body is done, the hardest (or at least the most tedious) part is over. Now you move on to the face and legs!
Use cut-out pieces of your paper template to position these elements, and pin them on temporarily.

Once you've decided where they go, it will be necessary to mark the sweater, because the borders of these smaller parts must be accurately defined. I used a yellow highlighter so it wouldn't be too noticeable. You can just barely see the markings of the face on the picture at left!

Thread your contrasting shade of yarn onto the tapestry needle and pull it through the sweater from the back.

Embroider the shape of the face in parallel lines. Make sure to keep your stitches very loose, because any pulling on the knit might deform it.

Use the same process to create the legs.

When you're finished, be sure to knot off all the loose ends in the back! I had a lot of loose ends because I only had very short lengths of blue yarn. Hopefully your sweater's backside will look a little neater!

Now you're done!

My sheep sweater made it out into the field for the first time with a pair of plain grey pants (so as not to steal the sheep's thunder!) and my new denim shoes.

In an homage to my latest vacation destination, New Zealand, where flocks of sheep dotted the hillside everywhere you turned, I also wore a pair of kiwi earrings!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Dublin Dress

One of my many favorite holidays for fashion is St. Patrick's Day, when I get to go all out in my favorite color—green!

For this year's festivities, I had to get creative, because the only green tops in my current wardrobe were frumpy sweaters entirely unsuitable for a night out on the town. Fortunately I have this green dress, which I've had for years, but worn only once or twice.

It was a little cold out for a sleeveless short dress, so I put some bootcut jeans under it, making it into a sort of funky tunic. My kelly green pumps did their duty on my feet, while the literal crowning glory of the whole ensemble was my hat.

I found the brilliant green fedora a few months ago at the thrift store for 1.99 (minus a 50% discount!), and I knew as soon as I saw it that it would make its first appearance on St. Patrick's Day. My hair is still green, so that was appropriate, but I'm not sure most people noticed, since it was surrounded by much brighter greens.

When you think about St. Patrick's Day, here are the things you think about: Leprechauns, shamrocks, beer, everything green, and, of course rainbows ending in pots of gold! I couldn't work a rainbow into my green-heavy look, but I could at least incorporate some gold...which I did in a subtle way on my eyelids. I'm really getting into glittery eye makeup.

Last but not least, I put on a green, orange, and white floral necklace which I'd also bought months ago and decided to save for the Irish celebration.

Bonus dog picture

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Do the Duotone

I'm back to my old tricks again; decking myself out in my favorite purple and green color scheme!

Today I'm wearing the green skirt that I just can't seem to let go of no matter how many times I decide I'm bored of it, the green boots that I will never get bored of – never!– the purple shirt that was once a dress, a green cuff bracelet, and a conveniently coordinating set of purple and green butterfly jewelry.

When you commit to a color scheme, you have to really commit!

Someone at Costco today commented that she liked my style, so apparently all that commitment pays off!