Cold weather style

This is the first year that I’ve worked outside the home in quite some time.  For the past 4 years I’ve been able to basically ignore the weather and turn up the heat if I got cold!  That doesn’t work so well now, when I have to park far away and wander around campus in the cold.  In addition, my studio has moved this semester to be right across from the outside doors, and it is absolutely freezing in there most of the time.

In February, I’m going out of the country with the university.  We don’t exactly have the most frigid weather here (it gets cold, but we rarely have lingering snows or more than a few days in a row below freezing) but I have a suspicion that I’m going to freeze.  The last time I went away for this long was two years ago, when we spent 2 weeks of March in Italy.  I was not expecting how cold it was, especially in the churches and cathedrals where we performed.  There’s nothing like seeing your breath while you sing!

This time I have vowed to be prepared.  I’ve been going through my wardrobe, looking for things that will work (both for the trip and at home).  I found that I didn’t have a warm coat, so I bought this coat from London Fog:
Winter coat
I’m surprised by how much I like it – I never thought I would own a puffer coat, but it’s so lovely and warm!  It has a hood, and the collar is lined with soft faux chinchilla fur, which is lovely.  I didn’t like the scratchy fur that a lot of coats had.  It’s much more stylish than the puffy coats of my childhood!  And since it’s the end of season, I got this coat for 1/3 price!

I also needed to find warm boots.  I have been finding that my toes go numb inside my boots after a walk.  I have a really hard time buying boots because I have skinny (12.5″) calves.  Most boots look like rainboots on me, and I wanted warm boots to fit snugly so the wind can’t get in!

I have found over time that the only way to get well fitting boots is to give in and buy nicer brands.  They seem to be sized a little smaller in the calf, and they do last longer, but I am very thrifty.  I knew i didn’t want Uggs (don’t like them) or the more high tech/snow boot looking things.   I wear mostly skirts, so I wanted something that looked ok with them, but would also work over jeans.  It took me weeks, but I finally pulled the trigger and bought these, the Trevis boots from La Canadienne:

boots

Yes, that’s my Butterick 5523 dress.  I still love it and wear it constantly!

Amazon had the best price, so while they were more expensive than I would  like I can comfort myself that they were over $100 off the price over at Zappos!  The boots are waterproof suede, and they are fully lined in that fuzzy material (it feels similar to the hood of my coat.)  I like the slouchy style, which reminds me of the 80s (I had pink glittery slouch boots then that 8 year old me wore into the ground!)  They are so warm, they fit my legs, and they can also be worn with the cuffs up:

boots

Closer:

boots

 

I also bought some fleece lined leggings to wear under dresses (I find that layering them with tights is warmer than wearing pants in the cold!)

I’m planning to make a few knit tunics/dresses before I go.  I will have a post about that soon!  I’ve also finished my new vogue dress, and it is fabulous.  I will take photos tomorrow on my husband’s day off and write about it then.

Outfit of the day & my shoe storage solutions

2-16-2011

Dress: Vintage, thrifted

Shoes: Mia

Sorry for the radioactive photo!  I have a lot of trouble getting properly exposed photos when I’m wearing a dark outfit.  I am really, really pale, and all my childhood photo albums are filled with photos of me glowing in the dark.  Still, this was the best photo of the dress (there is another on flickr, but while I look ok (only slightly radioactive) the dress is rather dark.  I get better photos outside, but I don’t have much of a backyard, and I live in a neighborhood with tons of foot traffic – sometimes I don’t feel like being stared at!

This dress is one of my favorite thrift store finds.  I rarely find decent vintage, but I do have a few stores that I visit which I think the pickers avoid.  This dress doesn’t have a lot of hanger appeal, but I love it!  I’m finding that dresses of this era (late 1970s?) suit me.

On to the topic of the day: Storing (and sorting) shoes.

I spent this weekend sorting and culling my shoe collection.  I tend to have a lot of shoes, mostly because I have a really hard time getting rid of any.  I still had shoes from 10 years ago, and I know I don’t wear them anymore!  I forced myself to get rid of 20 pairs, none of which had been worn in the past year, and some which were only worn once (I used to buy a lot of desperations shoes – shoes to match an outfit for one occasion, usually cheap shoes that I didn’t like.)  I’ve also, within the past 2 years, decided that I’m unwilling to suffer foot pain for my shoes.  I do like to wear heels, and I wear them almost every day.  This means that I can’t buy cheap shoes, but since I don’t really buy new clothes I just spend my wardrobe money on my shoes.  I thought I would share a photo of my shoe storage:

Shoe storage

This is just one of those modular wire shelving systems.  Most of my shoes have stacked heels, and don’t fall through the mesh.  I store my flats at the bottom, with the second of every pair leaning up in the back.  I like this system because I can see what I have, and I tend to actually wear them all.  I used to keep them in my closet, but then I wore the same 2 pairs all the time.  I try not to keep anything on the floor of my closet, ever since I had a minor carpet beetle invasion in the house – I vacuum it several times a week!  I haven’t quite figured out good boot storage yet:

Boots

I store all my boots with rolled up magazines inside, so that they don’t fall over and crease.  And yes, that is a t-ball bat (you know, in case we hae any really tiny burglars!)  I have a lot of boots, because I wear them most of the time in the winter.  I wear the other shoes in the spring, summer, and fall.  I have very few pairs of sandals (and I had to send back the Seychelles I just got from 6pm – they were too big!)  I don’t wear sandals often… they just don’t go with my wardrobe very well.

Going through the shoes (and getting rid of a bunch) helped me to see where the holes are in my collection.  I do not, for instance, need any more black shoes (especially because I don’t wear them often in warm weather – I don’t care for the contrast.)  I would like a pair of casual oxford type shoes – I am seeing them worn with dresses quite often, and I think it would be nice to have a different type of flat.  I’m thinking of the Caley by Bass.

I like that it has oxford styling, but it isn’t as high cut as the traditional type.  I’m not interested in looking like I’m wearing men’s shoes, and some of the other styles remind me of jazz shoes (which I’ve already got quite enough of, thanks!)

I’m also a bit obsessed with this pair, by Poetic License:

But, they are from last season and seem to be sold out everywhere!  I can find the brown/black color, but it’s the blue with red stitching that I really love.  I might go ahead and buy the other color while I still can.  Wouldn’t they be lovely with a retro dress?  Again, they aren’t too high cut, which keeps them from looking too mannish to me.

Lately I’ve been using Pinterest to keep track of the pretty shoes I find, most of which I won’t buy.  If anyone is interested, the shoe pinboard is here.  I might also get a new pair of sandals for summer, flat ones to wear with maxi dresses, but I have yet to find any that I like.    I don’t know why Sandals don’t appeal to me!  A new pair of Mary janes is definitely in the cards, as my pair of black Mary janes is entirely too uncomfortable for wearing without tights.

I’m also obsessing a bit about what shoes to take on my trip to Italy (in 2 weeks!)  But… once I get my packing wardrobe planned that will be  a separate post.  I have yet to decide whether I’m doing me-made-march or not.  I will be in Italy for half the month, but perhaps wearing my handmade stuff might force me to pack a bit lighter!

 

Glasses!

I finally got my try-on order from Warby Parker.  They were featured in the NY times, and got tons of orders, so it took a bit longer than usual, but it was worth it!  The frames seem pretty well made to me, and I really love several of these styles.  Would you like to help me make my final selection?  I asked my husband for his opinion, but he just said “Don’t you have the whole internet to make these decisions for you?”  Which I guess I do (although I would have given an opinion… I have a lot of opinions!)

So… here we go!  First, for reference, above is a photo of my current glasses.   This pair is at least 10 years old.  I would like a larger lens (my eyes are pretty bad, so I can’t see anything at all around the edges of these, and even the edges distort a bit.)  I don’t care for the oval shape anymore, and I think the narrowness of the shape doesn’t suit me.   I have a pretty big head, and wide, high cheekbones – I think these are too delicate!  And… I like a little bit of a nerdy style – thus the frames I’ve picked to try on!

glasses

Here are the five pairs I got to try on.  I’m thinking I like the Coltons (bottom left.)  They’re nice and big, but not overwhelming like the Huxleys. The webbs are similar, but I think I like the Colton more.    The Finns are also nice, but they are a bit smaller than I’m really looking for.  The  Fillmores are hilariously terrible on me – and weirdly, though they are the largest frames, they are too narrow for my face!   I’m so bad at making these sorts of calls!  So… I’ll open it up to the internet.  Which one do you think suits me the most?


Outfit: layered tights

Cardigan: Simplicity 2417

T-shirt: Merona

Skirt: Thrifted and altered

Shoes: Gianni Bini

One question I get asked a lot is “How can you stand to wear skirts in the winter?”  There are a number of tricks, but the best one I have is to wear really thick tights.  I have several pairs of sweater tights, which I love, but they don’t really come in bright colors.  So when I want some color, I start layering my tights!  If you have a brightly colored pair that aren’t quite opaque, try layering a pair of black tights underneath.  If the color isn’t too light, it will make them appear more vibrant.  These blue tights are opaque (they are by Hot Sox and I got them at TJ Maxx.)  I got the lace tights as a christmas gift, and I’ll be honest – they aren’t my kind of thing to wear on their own.  Lace tights always look kind of strange to me.  But layered over the brightly colored tights they make a really neat effect!

I’m trying something new this week.  I laid out all my outfits for the week on Sunday, so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time trying on clothes during the week.  So far it’s working – it gives me more time to think about outfits without stressing over it.  Here are my other two outfits this week:

1-31-2011

Monday:

Cardigan: Ann Taylor, thrifted

Dress: Ann Taylor, thrifted

Tights: H&M

Boots: Impo

2-1-2011

Tuesday

Cardigan: Jones NY

Dress: Colette patterns Rooibos in wool crepe

Tights: Forever 21

Boots: Poetic License

We missed the big snow storm – instead we just got a bunch of rain.  I hope everyone who was caught in the storm is keeping warm!  I’m sick (yes, again!) so I’m planning to spend my evening cutting out patterns for my spring wardrobe.  I can’t wait to get started on it, but I don’t like to spend a lot of time in the dusty 3rd floor when I’m sick.

In a 70s sort of mood…

I go through phases with my clothing.  Sometimes I cannot live without my full-skirted 50s dresses.  Other times I am attracted to the mod 60s (though they are not, it must be said, super great for my body type.)  Right now?  I’m having a minor obsession with some Studio 54 inspired 70s fashion.  It was sparked when I purchased this dress at a thrift store last month:

 

 

 

This dress has zero hanger appeal, but I had returned a dress that had major holes, and my thrift insists on an exchange rather than a refund.  With 15 minutes to store close I grabbed this dress, which had the advantage of being actual vintage.  I figured that if I didn’t like it, I could unload it to someone else who would.  To my surprise, this dress is really flattering, even at the just below the knee length!  I’ve always avoided these sorts of drapey frocks, but now I seem to have a whole new category of dresses to lust after!  To that end, I’ve bought this pattern on ebay:

Some DVF dress patterns can go for up to $100 (the famous wrap dress.)  This one?  Five dollars.  Apparently I am the only one wanting to revive this moment in fashion history!  The pattern calls for draped fabrics – challis, double georgette, crepe etc, or single knits.  I have a ton of knits, so I might try that  – either a matte jersey or an ITY.

It amuses me to look at old photos and realize that pantyhose with sandals used to be totally acceptable!  And, come to think of it, I haven’t owned a pair of regular pantyhose in at least 10 years – crazy!

Outfit: Belts are our friends!

Tunic: New York and Company (thrifted)

Belt: Merona

Jeggings: Charlotte Russe

Shoes: Kensie Girl

What better way to celebrate a new year that with an outfit composed almost entirely of pieces I wouldn’t have worn a year ago?  A year ago I would have said no to tunics, belts, and jeggings.  I now realize that I can wear all three – it’s all in the proportions!  Because I have skinny calves, jeggings and leggings look great when worn with a top long enough to totally cover my upper thighs.  Belts work if I belt at the natural waist – because I have a high waist I thought I needed to belt lower for evenness – not so!  I also have high hips, and belting lower just makes my legs look short, and my waist look wider.  The size of belt I can wear varies with the outfit, and I find that stretch belts reduce the uncomfortable feeling.

I have always thought that I was pear shaped, because my hip measurement is larger.  In fact, one of the reasons this top works is that the extended shoulders balance out my bottom half, giving the illusion that I’m hourglassy.  But I was always confused because I don’t meet all the criteria for a pear shape, in particular the fact that I have relatively skinny ankles and calves.  Recently I discovered the inside out style blog, where I found that I may actually be an 8 shape (high hip hourglass.)  The advice for that figure type works really well for me, except for the prohibition on flared skirts, which I think work well on me as long as they flare from the natural waist (though not an a-line skirt… those are really bad on me, though they work for pear shapes!)

Also: glasses!  This may be only the second time in 4 years that I’ve worn my glasses on the blog.  I don’t typically wear them, because I have a really bad left eye, which causes my eyes to appear different sizes.  But I have an eye infection right now, so no contacts for me!  I’m thinking of getting a pair of oversized frames, now that they are back in style – those always worked better on me, and besides, when you have really bad vision the tiny frames aren’t so good – I have amazingly terrible depth perception!

This is the top that caused me to buy McCall 6242 – they are pretty much identical, with slightly different shoulders.  I thought I couldn’t do this style, but with a belt for waist definition I love it.  Without?  Not so much.  If you aren’t convinced yet that belting works, here’s what this outfit looks like without the belt:

I kind of look like a big rectangle.  I plan to make a few more tops like this from the McCall pattern and wear them in the spring and summer.  We are having unseasonably warm weather (yesterday it was 62 degrees!) so I’m getting it out early!

Outfit: Green tights

Dress: Delia’s, thrifted

Tights: Merona

Shoes: Sofft

I have a backlog of December outfit posts – I take them, but then run out of time to post them on the blog!  I will get to them eventually, but in the meantime here is what I actually wore today.

This outfit is very me – it combines an empire waist, a fun print, and a bright color!  I saw this dress at the thrift on Tuesday, and I ran for it like a mad woman (though there was no one else shopping!)  I washed it, and wore it the very next day to a holiday party.  This was the perfect dress to wear while consuming my own weight in pretzel bread and chardonnay (there was other food, but I like to stick to the basics, you know?)  That was our last party of the season (I doubt we will be celebrating New Year’s with anyone who isn’t a cat) and I’m glad for the time to breathe a bit!

11-26-2010: thoughts on refashioning

Dress: Thrifted and refashioned/altered

Velvet Jacket: Express, circa 2005

Tights: DKNY (via TJMaxx)

Boots: Nine West outlet

Lately I’ve been doing a great deal of altering/refashioning thrifted clothing.  I took the wardrobe refashion challenge last year, though I didn’t really do much refashioning then.  It’s only since deciding that I don’t like myself in pants that I’ve started to be hardcore about making my thrifted items work.  Before I started sewing I literally had three dresses in my closet.  I’ve worked hard to create a wardrobe that makes me feel good about myself – before, I had too many clothes that I was hiding in!

Occasionally I tell someone about this hobby, and I’m often met with the response “Oh, but alterations are hard!” or “I wouldn’t know how visualize a new look!”  I’m here to tell you that you can do it!  I was afraid of alterations, even after I took up sewing for myself (I know, crazy!)  One day I forced myself to sit down and just try to make it work – and to my surprise it not only wasn’t hard, it was actually fun!

Most of the alterations I make are not hard.  Want the dress shorter?  Mark a new hem and chop it off!  You don’t always have to hand hem – I’m about 50/50, depending on the style of skirt.  On some knits I don’t even use a hem, since they won’t ravel!  The hem is probably my most common alteration.  I like my skirts right above the knee, an alteration which often takes a dress from dowdy to fabulous.  I think everyone has a magic hemline length – the one that almost always works for you.  For some people it’s right below the knee, others shorter than mine.  Heck, maybe you can convince me about a mid-calf hemline.  If you find that magic length it takes some of the guesswork out of hemming.

My second most common alteration is to take in the side seams.  I will buy a dress or skirt up to 3 sizes too large.  In fact, too large is always safer than too small, if you can’t try the item on (or don’t want to… it was madness at the thrift store today with a 50% off clothing sale on!)  Any bigger than a 2-3 inch alteration and you’re looking at shaping issues, though I’ve seen some ladies really make it work (see: New Dress a Day.)

And in the event of a large dress?  Belts are magic.  Seriously.  Let me tell you about the dress in today’s outfit.  I bought it last Sunday.  It’s Faded Glory, which is a Wal-mart brand.  Usually I avoid wal-mart clothes because the quality is awful, but I go this since it was 100% cotton and plaid!  When I got it inside out I realized it was terribly sewn – loose serger thread all over the place, exposed elastic in the sleeves, half the hem machine stitched in red thread for some reason etc.  It had a really sad little self-fabric belt, which was actually sewn to the dress twisted (perhaps why it was donated?)  I removed the belt and the belt loops – I like my belts wide, and those loops wouldn’t help a bit!  Then I loosened the hem and restitched it with a more appropriate thread color.  I didn’t have to shorten the dress this time.  I took in the side seams by 2 inches total (so, I sewed the side seams 1/2 inch in from the serged stitching on each side.)  I left the sleeves alone because they seemed small.  After that it wasn’t exactly fitted, but it’s not that sort of dress – time for belting!

I used to have a major case of belt phobia.  It has required some intensive therapy to cure myself!  I recommend trying all different types of belts.  I like to buy them cheaply – Forever 21 is my favorite!  They can be thrifted, but I don’t have the greatest luck finding them in decent shape.  I prefer elastic backed belts, but that’s a personal issue – I find them easier to sing in.  I also find that I like really wide belts, and I like to belt a bit higher than my waist.  Experiment with different types and widths, wear them in different places, and you will find what works for you!

I’m wearing three different shades of purple today.  We went to a second Thanksgiving at my in-laws, and my MIL loves purple.  It’s one of my favorite colors too.  We got to see my niece (they live in Wisconsin – the last time I saw her she wasn’t talking yet, and today she knew my name!)  She spent all evening pointing at my tights… perhaps the sign of a fashionista in training?  Or just that she likes purple more likely!

I hope some of you feel inspired to try some alterations.  I haven’t touched on more complicated changes, but I will later on!  I’m going to start taking before photos of my refashions, and hopefully I can give a little inspiration.  I know that all the fabulous refashions online have been a great help to me!

November 15th: A lumberjack PJ party

Dress: Simplicity 2443

Flannel shirt: Aerie

Tights: Hot Sox

Boots: Alfani

Belt: Forever 21

I was in high school during the grunge era, and I thought I had seen as much plaid flannel as I ever wanted to see in my life.  Yesterday I was at TJ Maax buying tights (they have some great patterned tights right now) when I found this plaid pajama top on clearance.  For $5 I thought I could make it work as a regular top, and I was right!  I was going to try it as a tunic, but it’s not quite long enough – and it doesn’t really fit my hips either, so it’s best either unbuttoned (as above) or tucked in (so I can leave the last button undone.)  I rolled up the sleeves to give it a more casual look.

To my surprise I really like this look!  The ruffles make it different from the plaid of my youth, and the green is my absolute favorite color (I had my hair colored this weekend, so I’m wearing colors that really go with the red while it’s bright.)  My husband is a few years older than me, making him college age during the flannel era 90s, and he really liked this look on me.  He suggested I needed some Doc Martens, but I told him I’d leave those to him.

I bought some buffalo plaid poplin from fabric.com, and I’m planning to use it to make a tunic similar to this (minus the ruffles but with a drawstring waist… I have both a McCall and Simplicity pattern that would suit.)  The dress I’m wearing above is a lot more versatile than I thought – it works like this, and I’m also thinking of wearing it with a blouse underneath like a jumper.  I need to resew the hem – it came loose the last time I washed the dress.

So I’m definitely back on the plaid bandwagon, and you should expect a great many plaid projects and outfits this winter!

My coat collection has reached critical mass

Coat: Merona

Dress: Simplicity 2360, blogged here

Belt: Forever 21

Tights: Hue

Boots: Target

Worn: To take my Mom out for her birthday brunch at the Seelbach hotel Oak Room.

If you’re ever in Louisville on a Sunday, I highly recommend the brunch at the Seelbach hotel.  The Seelbach is a lovely historic hotel (famous for being mentioned in The Great Gatsby.) Cheap it is not, but the brunch is totally worth it!   My Mom had never been (I’ve been lots of times with my classical music friends,) so I wanted to take her for her 55th birthday.

I’ve decided I should make a second of these dresses – I really just love this one, and I always get positive comments.  I’m planning an order from fashion fabrics club, so I’ll try to get something that will work.  This one is a peachskin, and any drapey (but not too light) fabric will work.  I’m thinking of trying it with a long sleeve shirt under it soon, so that I can extend the season.

Marc went to a scrabble tournament out of town yesterday(yes, he does play competitive Scrabble,) so to entertain myself I hit the thrift stores and Target.  At Target I was able to fulfill two of the items on my “must have” list for Fall (I do have this list, but I’m cheap enough that it takes me forever to finish it off!)  I have wanted a faux leopard jacket for ages and ages, but the price of the true vintage ones put me off, not to mention the trouble I have getting vintage jackets to fit.  This coat was on clearance for only $20, so that’s something to check out if you’ve also been wanting one!  It’s nice and soft, with a good quality lining and buttons.  The only thing I would say as a criticism is that it doesn’t have any pockets.  I spent all morning wanting to jam my hands in my pockets to no avail – I guess it’s time to buy some gloves!

I got the Mossimo boots at Target as well.  I have been wanting a pair of brown boots, as well as some scrunch-type boots, and these fill both.  I had to go down 2 sizes (to a size 7) to get them to fit – maybe it’s because I don’t wear thick socks with boots.  I’d link to them, but they don’t seem to be on the Target website yet.

I had a pretty good day thrifting – I got some skirts to size down and shorten, and a long J.Jill jacket that will be great over dresses.  But what I’m really excited about?  This coat!

It’s a size small, wool boucle trench coat from the Gap.  I’ve been wanting to join the trench trend, but I’ll be honest – camel doesn’t suit me, and I’m not the biggest on waist ties.  This was I can do it for five dollars, so if I end up hating it there’s no real loss.  I have a ridiculously large coat collection, especially considering I’ve only worn a coat maybe 3 times so far this year.  I can’t wait for it to get colder so I can work in this one.  In the meantime, it’s living in my freezer for a bit just in case (I can’t wash it the way I did everything else, but I’m not due to the drycleaners for awhile… I’m not really paranoid, but better safe than sorry.)

I’ve been working on my dress – the instructions are of the type that frustrate me, a lot of matching squares and circles.  Hopefully it turns out nicely, and I’ll have a report soon!