31 March 2010

Work clothes

Alas, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that any time I announce plans here, I'll somehow fail to get photos to post. Last night, despite heroic efforts on everyone's part, a combination of drastic weather and Fabulous Husband's demanding work schedule prevented us from attending the family gathering as we'd planned.

After a morning spent planting hellebores in the rain, I was chilled to the bone and more than OK with relaxing in warm, comfy clothes at home. It wasn't how I'd planned to spend my birthday, but I can't complain about an evening spent canoodling with my sweetie.

Instead, I have pictures of today's outfit, taken by the ever-talented Jen Kiaba!

today's outfit, WIWT, street style, Velvet top, LnA tee, Fluevog boots, Betsey Johnson belt, DIY jeans

today's outfit, WIWT, street style
Purple twist v-neck: Velvet, Marshalls
Brown layering tee: LnA, thrifted, remixed
Brown bling bow belt: Betsey Johnson, TJMaxx
Jeans: Victoria's Secret, pegged by me
Boots: John Fluevog "The LA: Silverlake

 today's outfit, WIWT, Velvet top, LnA tee, Fluevog boots, Betsey Johnson belt, citrine necklace
Fluevog boots, flower hair clip, Betsey Johnson belt, citrine necklace, woven silver bracelet
Citrine toggle necklace: street fair vendor at FIT
Flower hair clip: homemade
Braided silver bracelet: Anima Perdita
last photo is mine: the rest are Jen's. 

Jen and I are collaborating as a photographer/stylist duo on head shots, engagement portraits, and other photographic work. Today, we were doing a head shot session. I knew I'd be helping to carry equipment and set up shots, but still wanted to show off my chops as a serious Fashionable Person. Thus, these boots. I built the entire outfit around them, from the ground up.

These are my answer to the vertiginous wedge ankle boot: cf. Nubby Twiglet's and Audi's Jeffery Campbell Clinics and Sal's Alice + Olivia for Payless Buckled Booties. As I spend more time blogging, and looking at other wonderful fashion blogs, I'm starting to feel like a bunch of us are working from the same Platonic ideal of a closet. Rather than the cliched rage of a party-goer who finds another attendee is wearing the same dress, I find this cheering and uplifting. Offbeat as my sense of style is, it's shared by some other wonderfully stylish ladies!

Who else is on your style wavelength? Do you like finding commonalities in dress, or do you prefer to be completely original?

30 March 2010

Special Occasions: Passover (First Night)

This time of year is always pretty exciting for me. To combat the often-dismal weather, there's not only my birthday (today!) but the big family gatherings that come with Passover, the Jewish springtime festival celebrating freedom.

I am exceptionally lucky: both sides of my family are truly awesome. We don't get the stereotypical infighting, cattiness, and awkwardness that make family get-togethers a gold mine for the crueler type of comedy writer. Instead, I get to spend time with my terrific cousins, uncles, and aunts, and enjoy the delicious food that accompanies the holiday.

today's outfit, WIWT, Liberty of London dress, jacket, skirt, stripey stockings, boots

today's outfit, Liberty of London dress, jacket, skirt, stripey stockings, boots


skirt, stripey stockings, boots, closeup

Jacket: Ann Taylor Loft
Pink layering tee: LnA, remixed
Dress, Liberty of London for Target
Belt, Ann Taylor Loft, remixed
Skirt, Ann Taylor, thrifted, remixed
Pink vertically striped tights, Betsey Johnson, TJMaxx
Boots, John Fluevog, remixed 

Yes, I'll admit it: I stole this look, wholesale, from Sal at Already Pretty. I can't help it! It looked so great on her, I had to try it myself!

I'll also admit that yes, I wore a nightie to a family gathering for a religious occasion. In my defense, though, it's a substantial nightie, and one I layered so aggressively that I would have been fully dressed if I removed it. I thought the print was perfect for a spring festival, and the babydoll silhouette (controlled by the tailored jacket and belt) ideal for what I knew was going to be a meal of epic proportions - seven courses, including three different (flour-free) desserts, plus the requisite four glasses of wine.

today's outfit, WIWT, closeup, jewelry, earrings, necklaces
Origami fan earrings: Magokoro New York
Carved bone necklace: inherited from my grandmother
Carved orange-and-black necklace: inherited from my great aunt, via my mom

I went a little crazy with color and pattern in this outfit, and I got to wear some really fun, unusual jewelry that's not in regular rotation in my wardrobe.

The earrings are tiny origami fans made from Japanese mulberry paper. I love how they pick up the pattern on the bottom of the dress and weigh almost nothing.

I also was really happy that, for such a family-oriented event, I was able to wear two pieces of jewelry that belonged to women in my family before me. The carved orange necklace is really spectacular. I have no idea of what material it's made, but my mom tells me it's hand-carved. I do know that it's such a dramatic piece that it's difficult to work into outfits. In the past, I've always tried to wear it with something very, very simple, to let it take center stage, and I've never been happy with the results. I think it works much better this way, in concert with a busy pattern that picks up its colors.

Liberty of London dress, jacket, skirt, stripey stockings, boots
photos: Fabulous Husband

Last night's gathering, with my mom's side of the family, was a little on the casual side, so I could get away with the funkiness of the floaty dress over a skirt. The blazer might almost have been a bit too formal, but the cropped sleeves, oversized buttons, and pick-stitching kept it relaxed. Tonight's Seder, with my dad's side of the family, is a bit dressier, so I'll break out something more structured.

Finally, Fabulous Readers, I owe you an apology. I didn't get a chance to get pictures of the outfits I wore to the two Gypsy Nomads concerts last week. As soon as I get a chance, I'll take an afternoon and re-create the looks for your enjoyment!

24 March 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Sorry, Fabulous Readers: I won't be posting an outfit today. Instead, I'm hennaing my hair.

I've always wanted red hair. My mom is a stunning redhead, naturally, and growing up, I was always disappointed that I didn't inherit it. Genetics handed me a slightly bum card when it comes to hair color: I didn't get my dad's almost-black shade, either. Instead I ended up with a medium-brownish-blonde color that does nothing for my complexion and makes me look washed out (oddly, it's about the same shade as Fabulous Husband's, but looks splendid on him: he's got much darker eyes and paler skin than I do, though).

So of course, the first thing I did when I went away to school as sixteen was dye it. Red, like my mother's.

I've experimented with other shades over the years - a truly unnatural fire-engine red, jet black, blonde, calico (an ill-advised homebrewed attempt to rid myself of a grown-out black dye job: it could have been worse) - but always returned to red.

However, as anyone who's tried to maintain red hair with ammonia-based dyes knows, red is a remarkably fugitive (i.e., short-lasting) color. Even with massive amounts of conditioner, trying to stay red left my hair dry and damaged, so I started using henna.

Henna is a subtropical flowering plant, Lawsonia inermis:
 
picture via Wikipedia

The dried, ground leaves are used as a dye for skin, hair, leather, and wool: any protein-based material, really. The color is long-lasting and vividly orange-red.

I've been using henna on my hair for several years now, and I'm thrilled with the results. My hairstylist is amazed that I can get a true, vivid, lasting red that not only doesn't damage my hair, but conditions it: my hair is never as glossy, silky, and cooperative as right after I've hennaed it.

The biggest problem with henna is that, for centuries, the term 'henna' was used as a generic term for any hair dye, including ones with ingredients that can cause serious damage to the user's health. For that reason, always be leery of any product calling itself henna that promises a color other than red or contains anything other than L. inermis (although there are other natural dyes, such as indigo, alma, or cassia, that can be used alone or in combination with henna to create different shades. Products containing these other dyes should list them, though, not refer to a mix of dyes as "brown henna," "chestnut henna," or any other variation). Henna powder should be bright green and smell like fresh-mown hay.

The best way to ensure that you're getting good-quality henna without additives (I've encountered henna with green sand added for bulk and color) is to buy it from a reputable supplier. I order mine from Mehandi, but there are several reputable suppliers: a Google search for "Body Art Quality Henna" or "BAQ Henna" should turn up several. Mehandi also has great instructions on how to mix and apply henna to hair. Be warned, though: it's not a quick process. I like to dedicate a day when I have no pressing obligations outside the house to hennaing, because I know that I'm going to be stuck with a plastic-wrap turban covering a headful of greeny-brown mud for at least four hours. That's also why there's no outfit post today: I'm wearing old, disreputable clothes that I don't mind about dye stains on.

Part of the reason that I'm doing this today is that tomorrow, Fabulous Husband and I are going to Pennsylvania for our end-of-winter getaway combined with my birthday celebration. We're going to see the wonderful Gypsy Nomads in concert and be in the audience for their first concert DVD. It's a costumed event, and I've been sewing like mad trying to get The Perfect Outfit together.

I'm bringing my netbook, but I can't promise that I'll be able to find a wireless connection. If not, I'll post lots of photos next week when I come back!

23 March 2010

Gloomy Tuesday

Whoever ordered the chilly, rainy, grey skies, could you please take them back? I was really happy about the warm, sunny weather we were having. I know it can't be sunny all the time, and it's still March and all, but... please?

It's the sort of day that inspired me to sulk in bed all day, reading, maybe venturing to the kitchen for a cup of tea if I'm feeling bold. Sadly, I had Stuff To Do today, so that wasn't to be.

Time for another Dialing It In outfit! I guess I could take a page from Angie at You Look Fab and call these Fast Fall Back Outfits, but I somehow don't feel like that captures the sense of sheer sartorial uninspiredness I feel when I reach for these outfits. For me, they really are the wardrobe equivalent of macaroni and cheese: easy to make, not too demanding, and immensely comforting.

daily outfit, WIWT, olive jacket, heart sweater, jeans, casual laceups
Military-style jacket: Ann Taylor Loft
Heart sweater: Absolutely Creative Worldwide, thrifted, remixed
Garnet necklace: depths of the jewelry box
Belt, Leather Worx
Jeans, Christopher Blue, thrifted
Shoes, John Fluevog, "Earth Angel Michael" (?)

olive jacket, heart sweater, jeans, casual laceups
I've always loved military-styled items, from pea coats to uniform jackets to webbing belts to combat boots. I don't really know why: I'm not from a family with a strong military tradition and I never even considered the armed forces as career options. Whenever I'm feeling a bit down and need to feel tough, though, I reach for items like this jacket.

I tried letting my hair air-dry, which is how I've always treated it, and I'm finding that I'm not happy with the results. Thankfully, it's short enough that damage from regular blowdrying won't be too bad.

Oh well. At least I still have snowdrops:

snowdrops in the rain

Does bad weather influence your mood or how you dress? What's your take on military-inspired clothing? Love it? Hate it? Does it have any meaning or significance for you?

22 March 2010

The Fabric of Memory

It's really starting to feel like spring around here!

black and blue outfit, WIWT, denim jacket, dress, belt, skirt, OTK socks, boots
Denim jacket: Calvin Klein Jeans, Century 21
Black button-front dress: Ann Taylor Loft
Lapis necklace: from my grandmother
Blue belt: TJMaxx, remixed
Blue circle-gore ruffled skirt: Marshall's
Diamond Lace OTK socks: Sock Dreams
Boots: John Fluevog "Inge," remixed

black and blue outfit, WIWT, closeup, denim jacket, dress, belt, necklace
 photos: Fabulous Husband

Yes, the belt is a remix, even if it doesn't look like it! I've encountered reversible belts before, and they're usually relatively uninteresting: the swivel mechanism on the buckle flops between black and brown (ho-hum!) and they're sized for men's belt loops. I've always thought that they were the ideal wardrobe item for minimalist male dressers who didn't want to clutter up a closet with (horrors!) more than one belt. This skinny number, though, switches from royal blue to bright yellow. That's a reversible belt I can groove on!

I've worn denim jackets for as long as I can remember: baggy, acid-washed ones as a kid in the 80s; my boyfriend's, covered in martial arts and metal band patches, when I was in college; and this fitted little one that I bought while working on Lower Broadway, a job I lost not that long before September 11, 2001. 

Many articles of clothing can be artifacts of memory and nostalgia, but it seems that jackets, leather and denim ones most of all, remind us of the past. Maybe it's because they're durable pieces, more resistant to wear and thus more likely to stay in our closets longer? Or maybe it's because they're the outermost layer, the thing most likely to be seen and remembered by any passing stranger, literally the mask/costume/armor we present to the world. 

Inner clothing is much more intimate. There are fewer than a hundred people in this world who have seen me in my underwear (and I worked as a figure model, so that number is higher, I suspect, than most), but I cannot begin to contemplate how many people have seen me in this jacket.

Jackets stay in memory. When I was working downtown in Manhattan, I routinely saw one of the traders from the nearby exchanges. The traders were easy to pick out, because they all wore a uniform of lightweight, mesh-sided blazers, usually in navy blue polyester, over their street clothes. This guy was particularly memorable, though, because instead of the standard-issue navy poly, his jacket was bright turquoise with an allover print of rainbow trout. I know nothing else about the man: I never had the courage to ask him about his jacket, have no idea whether he was caught up in the attacks on the World Trade Center, don't even remember the face that went with the jacket. But his jacket is an indelible part of my memory.

It amuses me that every so often designers "rediscover" denim. Denim jackets are quintessential Americana. There are a few other Canonic American Wardrobe Items - the black leather motorcycle jacket, white and black T-shirts, Converse sneakers (the Chuck Taylor All-Star high-tops), medium-wash, button-fly jeans - that, while they're not always "in style," never really go out of style either. I wore Chuck T's in high school, in the era of Air Jordans and Reebok Pumps, and was very much Not Cool because of it. Now all the high-school kids in my area look like they'll part with their Chucks when someone pries them off their cold, dead feet, and David Tennant as Doctor Who has given them an aura of geeky cool. Plus ça change...

I don't know that I'll be sporting the head-to-toe denim look being touted in the glossy mags. I'm not that into any fabric head-to-toe, and really not that fond of denim to wear it thus even if I was. I am, however, glad that it's warm enough to wear this little jacket, with all its memories and history.

What articles of clothing make you remember the past? Do you have any vivid memories of certain pieces - yours or someone else's? And what are your thoughts on designers' 'rediscovery' of denim?

19 March 2010

Link-tastic! 19 March 2010

Wow. Another week's gone by already!

First of all, a huge thank-you to all you Fabulous Readers who have left insightful, interesting, and uplifting comments. I really appreciate that you take the time to respond to my posts, and I love reading what you have to say!

I've always loved the concept of science-inspired fashion, but I've seldom seen it done well - usually, there's plenty of science and not much fashion. Looks like that might be changing, though. I love the ECG leggings!

Sal has her own theories on color mixing. Interestingly, although they're very different in theory, we end up liking similar color combinations. I wonder if there's some scientific basis for eye-pleasing color combos? I wouldn't be in the least surprised: color is the result of very well-documented scientific phenomena: the wavelengths of visible light and our brains' reaction to it. But what impact does society have on perceptions of "pleasing" color combinations? What's the effect of limiting factors like dye technologies? Hmmm...

Speaking of societal conventions, Gertie wonders if there's something inherently oppressive about a girdle. THe comments are amazing, erudite, and thought-provoking.

A great, 2-part post on sustainability and fashion (part 2 here). Franca raises some really interesting points about fashion as an ecosystem.

In a related vein, does buying clothing secondhand have a negative impact on your favorite brands?

I have a tendency to look at everything I encounter as a potential hat. Apparently, that's how the academichics feel about belts! Check out all their non-traditional belt options.

Everybody complains about the unrealistic size profile of models used by most fashion magazines (I won't say that they don't use "real" women - I know plenty of women who are naturally very skinny and would do anything to weigh more! - but the ratio of very-slender to fuller-bodied is certainly not representative. Well, a few bloggers got together to do something about that. They're trying to put together a magazine. I'm very interested to see where this could go!

As always, Fabulous Readers, have a wonderful weekend!

18 March 2010

Going Green

Sorry about the dearth of posts yesterday, Fabulous Readers - we had friends who we don't see nearly often enough over for our annual beer, soda bread, corned beef and cabbage, beer, shortbread and whisky festival.

In an area as proud of its Irish heritage as mine is, green for St. Patrick's Day is de rigeur. 

St. Patrick's Day outfit, green outfit, WIWT, daily outfit, green top, cardigan, miniskirt, boots, belt, green
Black drape-front cardigan: Velvet, Marshall's
Olive green rib-knit tank: thrifted
Darker green tank: Ann Taylor Loft
Chartreuse belt: thrifted
Denim mini: Old Navy
Boots: John Fluevog, "Rosabelle"

It was so warm and gorgeous out we were hanging out on the deck for a while!

St. Patrick's Day outfit, green outfit, WIWT, daily outfit, green top, miniskirt, boots, belt, green

After a way-too-long and dreary winter, I'm willing to take any chance I can get to spend time outdoors in the sunshine.

This is also my first time wearing glasses with the new haircut. I've only recently become comfortable in glasses again, after years of wearing contacts pretty much exclusively. 

Jewelry, accessories, closeup, Celtic knot earrings, necklace, chain
Tiny Celtic knot stud earrings: gift from my cousin
Bronze Byzantine chain (worn as bracelet): Wolfgaard Armory, remixed
Green stone teardrop necklace: Central Asian
Purple-and-green stripey socks: Sock Dreams "Super Stripe Knee Highs"

Despite the matchiness of my majorly-green outfit, I couldn't possibly play it straight with in all green. You can just see the cuffs of these purple socks above my boots.

How do you feel about the tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick's Day? If you participate in it, do you like green from head to toe, just enough to not get pinched, or something in between?

16 March 2010

March Modness (with snowdrops!)

You know how I'm always burbling about snowdrops and how happy they make me?

Guess how happy I am now that they're finally here!

Other flowery things that make me happy:  This dress from Target's Liberty of London collection.
Dress: Target
Yellow belt: TJMaxx
White trench: Daisy Fuentes, thrifted
Burgundy fishnet stockings (cut down from tights: depths of the drawer
Beige platforms: John Fluevog, remixed

For the most part, I was... less than thrilled by the Target/Liberty of London collection. I put very little stock in most of Target's designer collaborations: my opinion is that a simplified, mass-produced item with a designer label on it is still a simplified, mass-produced item, without any of the quality workmanship or individuality of a full-fledged designer product.

However, Liberty of London, with its collaborations with Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau greats like William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was perhaps the original purveyor of the concept of "style for the masses," which makes it a perfect partner for the similarly-inclined Target. 

The prints, needless to say, are beyond awesome, and after seeing them online, I was prepared to fall head over heels with the clothes. 

Sadly, I was disappointed by most of the fabrics and the styling of the clothes. This cotton sateen is substantial and feels like it won't fall apart after the third wear: not so for the lightweight poly gauzes used for the majority of the collection. 

As for the styling, most of the pieces were cut along floaty, ruffly lines. There were ruffled peasant blouses, sundresses with tiers of ruffles, even ruffled one-shoulder maxi dresses. Almost every piece seemed to feature the word "ruffle" in its description.

I have nothing against ruffles. I like 'em! In fact, later this week, I'll be showing off some pieces that show just how dear to my heart a well-executed ruffle can be. But...

But in my mind, when you pair such aggressively floral prints with ruffly, floaty cuts, you end up square in 1970s Bohemianland, and that, Dear Readers, is not a place I want to be. At least not to that extent. 

That's why, to me, this dress was such a standout. It's tailored on clean, structured lines, which balance the exuberant floral print nicely. It's a perfect example of a mixed style register - despite the print, with the skinny belt and white trench, I feel more like a product of Mod London than anything else.

The hair's helping with that. I think I'm finally getting into my groove with it.
Tiny mandala earrings and amber shaggy-chain necklace (remixed), made by me

This has become a constant gesture. The bangs still aren't staying where I want them (although they're starting to) and I'm not used to the pressure on my forehead!


Yeah, it's not so bad as all that. I guess.

Have you seen the Target/Liberty of London collection? What do you think of it? How would you style these over-the-top floral pieces?

15 March 2010

Dialing it in, plus new haircut!

Some days, you don't have the energy to go all out. Those are the days when you dial it in: go for the tried-and-true, the old reliables, the ones that work. The routines you can fall into on autopilot without even thinking. This outfit is one I've worn but not posted before: it's super-comfy while still being stylish.

fashion, outfit, daily outfit, WIWT, trench, trench coat, tunic, leggings, umbrella, boots, striped socks
Trench: French Cuff, TJMaxx
Umbrella: Antique

fashion, outfit, daily outfit, WIWT, tunic, tee, t-shirt, leggings, umbrella, boots, striped socks
Cowlneck tunic (ostensibly a dress): Fever, Marshall's
Layering tee: LnA, thrifted
Belt: Ann Taylor Loft
Leggings: Wild Rose, TJMaxx
Stripey socks: Smaller-Footed Super Stripes, Sock Dreams
Boots, John Fluevog, "Mallory"
 
fashion, outfit, daily outfit, WIWT, tunic, tee, t-shirt, umbrella, necklace, pendant, butterfly
Butterfly bits reversible pendant: estate sale
all photos: Fabulous Husband

I love the top picture: I feel like I'm channeling Audi from Fashion For Nerds (something about the take-no-prisoners pose and mischievous smile). She's definitely one of my inspirations for both style and blogging.

I'm still following along with the academichic Fashion 101 series. This week's theme is belting, a topic dear to my heart (and waist, natch). As an hourglassy girl, I find that belts are great allies in the fight to make sure my waist is visible between my full bust and hips. This outfit is a great example: an Empire-waist (babydoll) top like this tunic can make me look bulky or pregnant if the waistline hits right below the bust. By adding a broad belt, I can contain the fullness of the top, letting the flare of the skirt portion start a few inches lower and preventing any number of questions about my due date.

The pendant, by the way, is really made from the preserved wings of various butterflies (plus one tiny whole one), in a double-sided, brass-rimmed glass frame. I found it at an estate sale and was so intrigued and creeped out by it that I had to own it. Butterflies have long been a symbol for reincarnation and the eternal life of the soul: this little pendant is not only a pretty piece but has overtones of memento mori and Victorian mourning jewelry that I find rather comforting, in that weird way memento mori are.

Part of the reason I felt the need for a dial-it-in outfit was the weather. At least the snow's gone, and it's warm enough outside for a light coat instead of twenty pounds of wool, but it's been rainy, raw and windy for the past few days, and if there's anything that enervates me more than grey skies, it's unceasing wind. What better time for an outfit that feels like I'm pajamas all day long?

The rest of it is that haircut. I got it done on Friday, came home and took scissors to it myself because I managed a complete and utter communication fail with my usually wonderful hairdresser, then spent the weekend in abject misery. I'm only just now starting to come to terms with it, and I miss my old angle bob terribly. I'm still not sure that it works. It is entirely possible that you'll see an amazing upswing in scarves, hats and updos in the next few months - or maybe I'll come to terms with it.

Anyone who advised me against bangs is permitted one "I told you so," in print or in person.

So, Fabulous Readers, a question: I'm getting to the point where I'm featuring items that I've worn before. It's inevitable: my wardrobe isn't that extensive, no matter what Fabulous Husband says. Do you care? More precisely, do you want to know if something's been featured before (via a "remix" label or links to previous posts), or do you not really care? A show of hands would be appreciated.

What do you reach for on the days when you don't want to get dressed and face the world? Have you ever had a haircut you truly hated, and how did you deal with it?

12 March 2010

Link-tastic! 12 March 2010

I'm a rampant bibliophile (we have very little wall art because it takes up bookshelf space), so I always get excited when fellow writers put up reading lists. Here are two great bibliographies to look into: one on fashion theory and another on sewing.

What goes into a custom jewelry design, and why can it be so costly? WendyB tells you everything you need to know.

I'm not the only one with mixed feelings about fast fashion - or the only one who makes it last beyond its one season of intended use.

Speaking of mixed feelings about fast fashion, I'm kind of craving the over-the-top Christian Siriano shoes from... Payless?! (But seriously, check out those heels.)

I love black lipstick, and I've seldom seen it done so well. Ooh, the yellow eyes look so amazing... I may have to play with this look, especially because there's a very helpful step-by-step tutorial!

I may have found a new favorite fashion designer most people haven't heard of (but should). A Victorianish (yet, somehow, 1940s) wasp-waisted down puffer coat in a rich shade of plum sounds like the perfect combination of warm and eccentrically stylish to me!

Controversial fashion is nothing new. I'm intrigued that the extra-long hatpins were defended, not as a fashion statement, but as the 19th-century version of pepper spray.

I think fashion mags have gone a little downhill a bit in the past 130 years, don't you?

My beautiful, talented friend Ellan is at MIT, making photoreactive, animatronic fabric butterflies. How cool is that?

The wonderful writers at threadbared continue to make me think... and feel a bit uncomfortable (in that good, challenging, keeps-me-on-my-toes way). I'm still processing their essay on consumerism, fashion hierarchies, and authority and democratization in fashion, and suspect I will be for a while.

Have a great weekend, Fabulous Readers!

11 March 2010

Fashion "Rules," Part 2: Patterns

Let's continue our exploration of my takes on fashion "rules." I've decided, by the way, that the second word really does belong in quotes.

As far as I'm concerned, the biggest rule - the only rule, really - in fashion is "To thine own self be true." I was going to say "don't get arrested for not covering up certain bits," but maybe you have perfectly valid reasons for racking up an indecent exposure charge. Civil disobedience? Performance art? A social statement about the gendering of our bodies? It is not my place to judge.

I also kind of want to say "speaking of exposure, dress appropriately for the weather," but considering how often I've frozen because of a clothing choice more dictated by aesthetics than practicality, and my fondness for tall boots and velvet year-round, even in summer, I can't, not without courting hypocrisy.

So. "Rules," or at least my own aesthetic, for anyone who is interested. Not, please, to be taken as gospel.

10 March 2010

Snowdrops

daily outfit, WIWT, snowdrops, green, white, brown
Photo: Fabulous Husband
Green long-sleeve tee: Lucky Brand, Bloomingdales
White shrug: Miss Lili, Past 'n' Perfect
Amber glass shaggy-chain necklace, made by me
Herringbone tweed skirt, Ann Taylor Loft
Brown lattice tights, Linda Allard Ellen Tracy (?), TJMaxx
Green shoes, John Fluevog "Darjeeling"
Green bag, Strada, DSW

The piles of snow have almost completely retreated from my lawn, and I'm definitely feeling spring coursing through my veins.

I said earlier that I love early-spring flowers like crocuses and snowdrops, but I'm more likely to wear crocus colors because I'm a little leery of wearing white. I do, however, have a whole lot of green clothing in my wardrobe, so I figured Why not? and put together this snowdrop-inspired outfit to celebrate yet another sunny, balmy day. 

Just like in the earlier outfit, I'm using a neutral that's also around in the natural world this time of year: this time, it's the mid-browns of sere grass and bare branches instead of grey late-winter skies.I like the pattern contrast of the cream-and-brown tweed and the lattice tights a lot too: the shapes echo each other without being too similar.

What's your favorite springtime fashion inspiration?

09 March 2010

Hearts & Stripes

daily outfit, WIWT, sweater, hearts, buttondown, collared shirt, stripes, necklace, bird, serpentine, skirt, tights, shoes, brogues, red, pink, green
Photo: Fabulous Husband
detail, closeup, sweater, hearts, buttondown, collared shirt, stripes, necklace, bird, serpentine, red, pink, green
 Heart-patterned sweater: Absolutely Creative Worldwide, thrifted
Striped French-cuff shirt: Old Navy, thrifted
Serpentine bird necklace: origin unknown, possibly Central Asian?
Full black cotton skirt: H&M
Grey tights: Calvin Klein, Century 21
Shoes: John Fluevog "Tillie"

Before I started playing more aggressively with color, I wouldn't had thought to pair pink and red, accent the combination with dark green, or wear grey tights with this outfit instead of standard-issue black. 

I love the buttondown-under-a-sweater look: it's slightly old-fashioned and, particularly when paired with a full skirt like this one, has a vintage academic vibe. It was impossible not to emphasize it with the shoes: played just wrong, they look orthopedic, but with this nostalgic look, they come off like a mid-century brogue. The necklace, which is a complimentary color but from a completely different style register, keeps the look from being too cliche. A strand of pearls would have pushed the look over the top from vintagey into costumey, I think.

By far my fondest part of this outfit, though, is the mix of patterns in the tops. The subtle, understated striped are a great foil for the bold hearts. I think the next unit in my Fashion Rules (I really should have made that Fashion "Rules") will be pattern and texture mixing.

Do you mix patterns? If so, how?

08 March 2010

Fashion and bravery

I started getting going on this subject when I expounded on my undying loathing for black trousers. I soon realized it needed a post of its very own.

Far too often, I hear women say, "I'd love to dress like x, or wear y, if only..." If only I was richer. If only I had a different job. If only... if you fall into that trap, it'll be "if only" for the rest of your life, and you'll be stuck in the clothes that don't really feel right, that don't suit your body or your personality.

We know that fashion cannot exist without societal consensus. Our notions of what looks "good" and "bad," what's "appropriate" and "inappropriate," are not absolutes: they're shaped by the combined opinion of everyone around us.  Sometimes it's a good idea to go along with that consensus, at least to a degree. Showing up at your office in a bikini (usually) will result in unpleasant consequences.
I have always thought that in order to skirt the careful line between an unusual personal style and going overboard into social unacceptability, you need to be more in tune with what is and isn't OK, just like a tightrope walker needs a better sense of balance than someone walking on flat ground.

How do you get that sense of equilibrium, find that place of balance between the quirks of your personal style and society's norms? It's not an inborn, have-it-or-don't ability: although I think some people are born with a better sense of it than others, fashion intrepidity is for most of us a learned behavior - something we can work to develop and improve upon. Finding it takes a trifecta of skills: research, practice, and play.

Is anyone surprised that research is my first leg of the triangle? I'm a slightly-lapsed academician, and any academic will tell you that the first step in any project, in any field, is research. What else is going on? How are other people confronting the same issue? What are the possibilities?

You'll notice the ever-expanding blogroll on the right. That's just some of my background material: I  also leaf through the occasional fashion magazine, look at catalogs and e-tail Web sites, watch slideshows of runway shows, and keep an eye out for passers-by on the street who are wearing interesting-looking styles. I also take inspiration from plenty of non-fashion sources: magazines and blogs on home decorating and cooking; fine, decorative, and graphic arts, even aspects of the natural world, such as the color schemes of favorite flowers or wintry landscapes... and on and on. If you look at the inspirations fashion designers cite for their collections, you'll realize that inspiration can come from anywhere.

As for practice, that should be pretty self-evident. You learn from both your successes and your mistakes. You only need to put a too-short tee under a longer one once to figure out that it'll spend all day riding up, necessitating far-too-frequent adjustments. Conversely, you only need one afternoon in an perfectly flattering, comfortable article of clothing you'd never thought to try before to realize that you need to work more of thm into your wardrobe.

The last leg, play, is perhaps the most difficult to explain. By its very nature, play is idiosyncratic, unpredictable, governed by no rules but its own. Playing with garments partially develops from the first two legs: I had never thought of taking an elastic-waist broomstick skirt and putting both arms through the waistband behind my back, so the skirt hung down over my arms like a full, capelike shrug, but once I was shown the trick, I started to think of other ways it could work.

Part of play is divorcing oneself from preconceived notions of how garments are supposed to be worn or combined. Part of play is experimenting. Part of play is failure. There will be plenty of combinations that don't work, plenty of less-than-successful attempts. However, keep playing - keep changing variables until you get something you like.

This, for example:
daily outfit, WIWT, black and orange outfit, cardigan, tank, mini, miniskirt, tights, leggings, ankle boots, boots, holey, holes, layered, bangle, bracelet
Photo: Fabulous Husband
Cardigan: Ann Taylor Loft
Lace-trimmed tank: Fang Glam, TJMaxx
Orange corduroy mini: H&M
Grey tights: depths of the drawer
Holey leggings, Batdude!: Luxe Girl, TJMaxx
Ankle boots: Diba, DSW
Coin-bedecked carnelian neckwire: from Mom
Orangey-red plastic bangle: Salvation Army 

This outfit (which, in the interest of full disclosure, was Friday's) started out completely differently. I knew I wanted to wear the new holey leggings. I know I'm a little behind the curve on this one - I've seen other fabulous bloggers wearing them all winter - so when I found these on clearance, I had to snap them up. 

I knew their punkiness had to be balanced with something, and I needed something under them so as not to freeze (in little patches). The greyish-brown tights were the perfect choice. The skirt came next: I tried my denim mini, but it was a little too much, almost costumey. If I was going to a concert, I'd consider it, but for a normal day... nope. The orange cord skirt was a nice choice: it's short enough to show off the fun tights, but the conservative fabric was just the right contrast. Also, keeping in mind my previous disquisition on color, I wanted to play with one of the most-derided color combinations with seasonal ties: black and orange. Whenever color pairing rules come up, somebody's bound to say "Orange and black look so Halloween-y!" I wanted to see if I could make it a wearable color combination for the rest of the year.

Then I tried to put something on the top half of my body.

I thought my drape-front Velvet cardigan (remember, last week I was still wearing for cardigans for the academichic Fashion 101 unit), thinking that the loose, flowing lines would balance the angularity of the bottom half of my body. I tried to make it work, O Fabulous Readers: I wrapped it, draped it, pinned it, belted it, contemplated wearing it as a hat. Every way I tried looked horrible.

After about the sixth iteration, I knew that the drape-front cardigan, mini, and holey tights combo was not to be - at least, not in that iteration. I gave up and grabbed this old, traditionally cut one I'm wearing. Which worked well enough.

 So there it is: I did my research (saw how other bloggers styled holey leggings, miniskirts, and cardigans) and spent some time playing (with various skirt and cardigan options). As for practice, I'll just have to see how I use these items in the future!

Oh, and this is the perfect segue into the next academichic Fashion 101 unit: Tights! As you may have noticed, I don't wear trousers very often, so tights are a mainstay for me, especially in cooler months. However, if the weather around here continues to be as warm and pleasant as it was today, I may have to cheat and wear a few pairs of hose or tall stripey socks instead.

Are there items of clothing that you want to wear, but feel you can't or shouldn't? Why or why not? How do you work dramatic items into your wardrobe?

05 March 2010

Link-tastic! 5 March 2010

Gracious! Another week, and another roundup of fabulous reading material from my favorite style bloggers and elsewhere!

The always-amazing Sal of Already Pretty has some great insights on making trends work for you. "You need never wear clothing you hate simply because it is trendy." Sing it, sister!

Alexander McQueen's posthumous Early Fall 2010 collection is... Beautiful. Amazing. Inspiring. I particularly love the embellished skirt suit with giant fur-trimmed hood, the orange print gown with black bottom border, and the corset-laced platform shoes. (from Haute Macabre)

The Lady of the Manners has some great advice regarding Goth fashion.

On the other end of the spectrum, miss cavendish is craving some beach time, and so am I. I love my pretty pale skin, but I like Vitamin D too!

We always talk about how runway fashion is art rather than wearable clothing. Well, here's a direct link. (from Kingdom of Style)

An interesting piece on the history of Oscars fashion. What a shame that they didn't illustrate it! I'd love to see photos of all those gowns. (via Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing)

DIY yourself an absolutely adorable cardigan! (from academichic)

Have a great weekend, Fabulous Readers!

Neutral Ground

Yesterday was one hell of a day - the sort of day where getting out of bed seemed like a bad idea before I even did it.

However, I had things to do, so up and dressed I got.
daily outfit, WIWT, skirt, cardigan, tank, silk tank, leopard print, dress, belt, scarf, tights, boots, jewelry, neutral outfit, neutral colors, stone lantern, garden 
photo taken by my fabulous mom
Black lace cardigan, Heart Moon Star, depths of the drawer
Leopard-print silk tank, Undersilks
Brown layering tee, LnA
Brown tweed skirt, H&M
Grey tights, Calvin Klein, Century 21
Boots, John Fluevog "Inge"

  neutral colors, jewelry, earrings, scarf, pin, chain bracelet, pattern, texture, tweed, lace, alpaca, knit 
Alpaca lace scarf, handknit 
Black woven belt, Ann Taylor Loft
Silver chain bracelet, gift from my parents
High-copper bronze Byzantine choker (worn as bracelet), Wolfgaard Armory
Silver and copper Stegosaurus fossil earrings, American Museum of Natural History
Gold, onyx, and pearl stickpin, depths of the jewelry box 

One of the things on the to-do list was visit my parents, who live an hour south of us. Not only did this mean a delicious dinner of sushi and nigorizake, but I got to take pictures in their beautifully landscaped (and nearly snow-free!) backyard.

With my overall feelings of droopiness and ennui, I didn't feel up to a bright, colorful outfit. Plus, in yesterday's post, I made few bold declarations about mixing metals and the wearability of neutrals in combination. Here's the backup for that bold statement: I'm wearing black, grey, several shades of brown, and cream, as well as a mix of gold, silver, and copper. You'll notice that the colors of the outfit are a mirror of the colors of the late-winter garden.

I love the combination of textures and patterns in this outfit. Nothing pleases the little Victorian in my heart quite so much as tweed and lace, and I think they're even better in combination. The tank is another perfect mixed-register piece: it's got the wild connotations of animal prints on a wonderfully soft, whisper-thin silk jersey knit.

Another thing I realize is that these are the first items from fast-fashion retailers I've worn on this blog. I've got to tell you, both the skirt and the cardigan are items that have been in my posession for quite some time. I think the cardi is one I bought when I was working on my undergrad degree, or just after. 

Even before the recent media uproars about clothing disposal practices, treatment of workers, or intellectual property theft, I was starting to phase stores like H&M and Forever 21 out of my shopping rotation for a wide variety of reasons. Yes, ethics were and are an issue: the argument can be (justifiably) made that any participant in the modern fashion industry is taking place in environmental destruction, exploitation, and a host of other societal nastiness, but retailers who specialize in cheaply-produced, low-quality goods that seem to be designed to do little more than fuel a ceaseless cycle of consumerism and waste (although, as I said above, sometimes items from these retailers can be surprisingly long-lived) strike me as particularly culpable.

However, that was only one contributing factor that prompted me to stop considering fast-fashion retailers as a regular shopping destination. Mostly, I got disappointed with the quality of construction and fit of their clothing. Crooked seams, poor-quality materials, and not-quite-right proportions are not merely endemic to inexpensive fast-fashion chains, they're a hallmark of their products.

I also discovered that inexpensive doesn't have to mean cheap. I can spend less on clothing by shopping at off-price stores like TJMaxx, Marshall's, and (the Mecca, the Shangri-La, the ne plus ultra of the lot) Century 21, or at thrift and consignment stores. My clothing budget goes much further ($4 for a Theory tank instead of $65; $8 for a Diane von Furstenberg halter wrap dress instead of  $225: $7 each for two LnA layering tees instead of $66) and the difference in quality is remarkable.

I consider thrifting to be a hobby, a passion, and something of a lifestyle. Look for more posts in the future about how to attack the confusing welter of a sorted-by-color Goodwill, dressing for thrifting, and brands to look for.

Would you wear an all-neutral look? Do the different shades all work together? What about mixing jewelry metals? What's your take on different tiers of shopping: do you love fast fashion, go mid-market, rock out in designer only, or live to thrift?

04 March 2010

Fashion Rules, Part 1: Color

Fabulous Reader Dranaan sent me this request:

Please discuss fashion rules, especially regarding colors and color combinations. I would love to hear your take on them.

I've been wanting to talk about color for a while now. This is the perfect excuse!

daily outfit, cardigan, tee, t-shirt, belt, skirt, tights, boots, necklace, jewelry, color, color combination, pink, purple, aqua, burgundy, Larimar, Betsey Johnson, Tahari, Design History, John Fluevog, Spanx, suede
photo: Fabulous Husband
Beaded cardigan: Design History, TJMaxx
Purple layering tee: Tahari, TJMaxx
Hot pink stretch belt: Betsey Johnson, TJMaxx
Buff suede skirt: Daisy Fuentes, thrifted
Burgundy tights: Spanx, TJMaxx
Boots: John Fluevog "Mallory"
Larimar wire-wrapped necklace, bought from the artist in St. Thomas
"Huggie" chunky mini-hoops, gift from mom

Wow, I think I need a daylight bulb in my front hall. The colors are a bit off. Let's get a detail shot in natural light:
daily outfit, closeup, cardigan, tee, t-shirt, belt, tights, necklace, jewelry, color, color combination, pink, purple, aqua, burgundy, Larimar, Betsey Johnson, Tahari, Design History, John Fluevog, Spanx
 Photo: me
Burgundy, hot pink, purple, blue-purple, and aqua, oh my! However did I come up with that color combination?

03 March 2010

Synesthesia

A while back, I promised I'd explain my fondness for the purple/green color combination. It goes beyond the fact that in general, any two colors of a color triad look wonderful together: it has to do with a neurological condition called synesthesia.

Synesthesia is, simply, a blending of the senses. Some people associate specific shapes or colors with numbers, or have auditory reactions to visual phenomena such as movement.

I have a very mild case: I smell in color.

I get all my perfumes from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, an independent company in California. I was introduced to them when my fabulous cousin, whose sense of style exceeds my own, gave me a vial of a perfume called The Apothecary. It's an herbal blend with notes of fig, and smells - you guessed it - green and purple. I had never thought to pair those two together!

I get a lot of inspiration for color combos from my perfumes. Of course, there's a downside to it too: I can't stand to go out of the house in an outfit that clashes with my scent. If I pick the outfit first, I have to be really sure I like it before I put the perfume on.

Today's outfit is inspired by a limited-edition perfume made to commemorate a full lunar eclipse called Penumbra: its description reads, "Rich purple musk, moonflower, red sandalwood, black amber, oakmoss, copal, lavender, neroli, tobacco, and pomegranate."

It smells burgundy, purple, and black:

burgundy, blcak, pink, purple, dress, cardigan, hood, scarf as belt, sweater tights, sandals, tree pendant, dangle earrings
Dress: Ann Taylor Loft
Cardigan and scarf used as belt: depth of the closet
Sweater tights: Marshall's
Shoes: John Fluevog, Summertime family (forget the style name)
Dichroic glass tree pendant: Jenn Feldman Glass
Pink, purple and pearl drop earrings: gift from parents, bought somewhere in Europe
 
It's also due in part to the academichic Fashion 101: Cardigans unit that I'm auditing. I've layered this cardigan over a dress before (it feels like walking around in my bathrobe all day!), but I'd forgotten how nice a pairing it was until I saw E. do something similar. I think the soft, drapey lines of the dress and scarf are balanced nicely by the edgy platform and studs of the shoes. And yes, there's still plenty of snow on the ground and I'm wearing sandals. I love my boots, but I feel like I've been wearing the same four pairs of shoes forever

I can't wear sandals in the snow without thinking of iki. Iki is one of those complex, difficult-to-translate Japanese words: it indicates an ephemeral, transcendent aesthetic ideal, straightforward yet elegant, spontaneous and unselfconscious. Like many Japanese aesthetic concepts, it's easier, coming from a European-based culture, to understand it through poetry and visual images. One of the canonical images of iki is an elegant woman wearing geta (platform thong sandals) in the snow.  I'm not hard-core enough to wear sandals without thick, warm tights, even though today was warm and sunny... for early March.

 What non-sartorial inspirations fuel your outfits? How do you blend cultural influences in your dress? What do you think about sandals or open-toed shoes in winter, tights or no?

02 March 2010

Spring has Sprung

The incredibly talented Jen Kiaba and I did an impromptu photo shoot yesterday (hence the strange background, although giant martini glasses are, well, kinda OK by me).

daily outfit, yellow, purple, grey, cardigan, tee, pencil skirt, tights, boots, scarf, earrings, spring, United Nude, pockets, military inspired
photo courtesy of and copyright by Jen Kiaba Photography
Grey wrap cardigan, BCBG Max Azria, TJMaxx?
Yellow tee, Caslon, stolen from mom's closet
Grey skirt, Ann Taylor, thrifted
Purple tights, Betsey Johnson, TJMaxx
Boots, United Nude "Pocket Hi," Amazon.com
Scarf, purchased in Zell am Zee, Austria

Earrings, chips from Fabulous Husband's first computer


My birthday is in late March, and I've always been fond of crocuses and snowdrops, the early spring flowers that are the only ones reliably in bloom on my birthday. I'm not comfortable wearing white (it doesn't stay white for long on me!), so I don't often echo the green-and-white palette of snowdrops. The yellow and purple of crocuses, a punchy complementary color scheme, is fair game, though!

Both colors look particularly stunning against grey, and shades of grey echo the often dismal skies of a New York early spring.

The boots are one of my few non-Fluevog pairs, from innovative shoemaker United Nude. Their designs are scupltural, architectural, and (sometimes) downright wacky. I couldn't resist these BDU-inspired boots: they have functional pockets, a detail sure to win my heart, and little red tags that read "Remove Before Flight."

Most of the time, my husband's reaction to new shoes is... lukewarm, to say the least, but these got his seal of approval with an "Oh, wow. Those are awesome shoes." They're a little tighter in the calf than I'd like, and the ballistic nylon means they can't be stretched by a shoemaker. Like Fluevogs, though, they're comfortable despite the high heel, and the rubberized fore-sole means plenty of traction in slippery conditions.

And yes, I painted my nails a shade of pale purple to complement this outfit. 

Everywhere I look, people are getting fed up with winter and ready for spring! What are your favorite spring colors, rituals, and clothes?

01 March 2010

Back in Black

black and red outfit: black denim pencil skirt, cardigan, owl henley, boots, striped socks, tights, scarf, onyx brooch
another Fabulous Husband photo
Black cardigan: Ann Taylor Loft
Henley with little owl pattern and heart-shaped buttons: No Boundaries, thrifted
Woven belt: Ann Taylor Loft
Black denim pencil skirt: Ann Taylor Loft
Tights and black-and-red stripey socks: depths of the drawer
Scarf: Hot Topic
Boots: John Fluevog "Inge"
Woven leather cuff bracelet: Urban Outfitters (?)
Onyx brooch: estate sale

The outfits I've posted so far have been vividly colored, which is pretty atypical for me. This is more my usual speed: black, black, and more black, with little accents of color.

As for the preponderance of Ann Taylor Loft items, I spent a year working there, and as a result built up quite the wardrobe of pieces from the store. I'm glad I'm not working retail fashion any more, and I've become unhappy with the chain's stylistic decisions in the subsequent years, but I learned valuable lessons that year about style, fashion, wardrobe-building, and dressing a wide variety of body types. The thing I miss most about it was helping my customers find smashing outfits for their body types and lifestyles.

One thing that will become quite obvious is that I have a deep, abiding fondness - verging, some might say, on an addiction - for John Fluevog shoes. There are several reasons for that: I love the combination of funky style and comfort - I have several pairs of Fluevog heels, these 3" babies included, that are just as comfy and walkable as a pair of sneakers; the company has a commitment to ethical production and offers quite a few ecologically conscious styles; they stand behind their products fully; and the salespeople are the sweetest,  friendliest, most attentive, and most knowledgeable retail staff I have ever encountered, bar none. Even if you buy online, you'll get a call from someone at a Fluevog store to discuss fit and shipping.

I'm also playing along with the academichics' Fashion 101: Cardigans unit. I own a few cardigans, but I don't really think of them as a wardrobe basic. However, I'm taking this as a style assignment (Me? Miss structured curricula much? Nah!), so expect to see quite a few of them this week as I try to fit the few I have into a daily rotation! My plans for this week include a photo shoot with the incredibly talented Jen Kiaba, a thrifting expedition, and a lunch meeting, so I've got a variety of situations for which to dress.

Do you have a default style - a certain look or combination you know you can always count on? When do you stick to it, and when do you experiment? What about favorite brands - do you have a go-to manufacturer? Are there certain items you're brand-loyal regarding, and others not?