February 26, 2010

Free as a bird...

I've been watching a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender lately--the upcoming movie looks pretty cool so I'm acquainting myself with the anime series. And, believe it or not, it's been inspiring me to make things. The series is based around "benders", or those who can manipulate the four elements (earth, fire, water and air). So just for fun (and to use up some bead stash), I'm attempting to make a jewelry set based on each element. So here's what I came up with for air.

My original idea was to stick with beads that had a translucent quality, since you can't see air. And when I found the bird pendant in my stash, it all really came together. I like the chains with it, too, because that makes it really lightweight and there's a lot of space in there, so that sticks with the idea.

Everything in this necklace was either found in the stash or recycled from old jewelry-- two of the 3 chains are from pendant necklaces that I had in high school (the pendants were no longer in good shape), and the rings that connect the bird to the necklace (except for the thick twisty jump ring) was also from one of those pendant necklaces. I was especially proud of myself for finding those twisty silver beads that link the chain pieces together, because they're kind of reminiscent of the giant ice bubble that the main character was found in.


And here's a closeup of the beads and chain...

...and another of the earring. (The bar is actually one of those necklace separator things.)


I finished this up last night...I knew I wouldn't be able to whip up a sewing project, but today's my birthday and I wanted something new to wear! Also, I love this sort of geeky crafting... most people wouldn't associate something like this with an anime show, and I can just laugh at my own private joke.

February 22, 2010

Almost there! (And Burda stuff)

This is the backside of my quilt...all I need to do is finish sewing on that binding (which I machine-sewed onto the right side today) and I'm done! Though it may take awhile, seeing as how I haven't finished a side yet...

Besides this, I traced out several Burda patterns on Saturday-- couldn't work on my quilt since I spent most of the day with henna on my hair and I didn't want to risk staining it, even though my head was covered. Traced out something like 6 patterns, all the ones in my planned summer queue. It'll save me time when it comes time to cut out, but I think next time I might just trace them out as I need it, because I was totally mentally wiped from trying to follow the lines all day!

Speaking of Burda, I finally got my March issue today. It was...interesting. I'm generally not a fan of the wedding issues...the dresses are never anything I'd ever want to actually wear. Including as shorter, more everyday dresses. The worst out of the lot was this one, which pretty much just screams Swan Lake. (My friend Tracey--the one I made the Tardis for--recently got married, and on her blog for several months leading up to the wedding, she did a weekly feature called "Not My Dress", in which she posted a picture of some horrendous wedding dress she found online, gave the reasons why that was not her dress, and then opened it up for her friends' snarky commentary. This dress would be a prime candidate.) A close second was this suit. 80s-inspired, boxy, boyish in a bad way, ugh. The main portion of the magazine had some pretty awful things too. I'm trying to decide if the worst was this "shrest" (as dubbed by The Selfish Seamstress) or the Hammer-pants jumpsuit. Probably the jumpsuit, because anything that has to be completely stripped off to use the bathroom just shouldn't be worn. At least not off the beach. Though I don't like 1-piece swimsuits for that very reason.

There were some good things, though. The standout for this issue was this lovely wrap blouse, which I think will absolutely have to be made. If I'm in the mood to make a straight skirt anytime soon, this would be a prime candidate. (Let's just completely ignore that hot pink monstrosity on top, which thankfully is not a pattern in this magazine.) And I'm thinking this dress could actually be fun, at least shortened as a tunic. (Though they need to rethink their definition of "contrasting", because that obi belt is obviously in the exact same fabric as the dress!)

Ok, back to handsewing...

February 16, 2010

The Personal Style Project: Rocking what I got (and figuring out what I need)

First, an unrelated bit of news: I finished quilting the quilt last night! Yay! So now I just have to add in some bits of batting around the edges (my quilt ended up being a little bit too large for my queen sized batting, joy), then sew on the binding, and I am DONE!

Ok, back to thinking about clothes, since I've been missing sewing on them lately. Conveniently, the album I'm currently listening to (Rock What You Got by Superchick) kind of fits the theme, haha.

So I've been going through the wardrobe, my summer one in particular. Conclusions so far:

  • I really don't need four white short-sleeved shirts (still trying to figure out what to narrow that down to), or four pairs of blue denim capris. (I've narrowed this down to the best-looking pair on me, though I'm hanging on to a second pair so far--thinking I'm going to chop them into long shorts or slightly shorter capris for the garden center job. They're a bit unstylishly long right now.)
  • However, I really do need those three different Beatles t-shirts. ;-)
  • I need to just suck it up and make those alterations I've been putting off... I have a couple of really great things that don't fit me as well as they could, and I'd much rather make them work than get rid of them. Case in point: This skirt. The problem is I attempted to make the pattern myself, and there's just way too much fabric bulk above the wrap ties. But look how awesome that fabric is!! And I have several other things that could benefit from some reconstruction. So I should probably just do those.
  • I'm also struggling with whether to let go of a couple things--namely these two dresses. (It probably wouldn't be a huge struggle if I hadn't made them both...)
  • I'm pretty settled on the green dress...it's one that I just haven't been inspired to pull out of my closet in the past year or so. Though part of that is probably because last spring was pretty cold, and I didn't really have anything good to wear over it. I'm a bit more undecided on the black and white dress--the bodice fits me great, but it just seems like it isn't fitting my waist very well these days. Like it's kind of just hanging off of it in that quasi-maternity sort of way. Though perhaps with the proper accessorizing, that could be remedied. Thoughts?
  • Why have I been keeping this button-down long-sleeved white shirt? I haven't worn it in at least two years, so obviously it's not one of my wardrobe essentials. Despite what multiple guides I've looked at have said.
  • It's no wonder I like warm-weather clothes better...my spring/summer wardrobe is SO much more colorful and interesting than my cold weather one!
Ok, now the serious part. Based on what I've seen out of my wardrobe, I can see some holes for the upcoming season:
  • I really do need a few more options in short-sleeved shirts I can wear for work. A rather large percentage of my short-sleeved stuff is printed t-shirts. (And I probably don't need as many as I have, but to quote Richard Castle, "I like it!" Heh heh, I love this show.) Though I do have 3 or 4 of these in my planned sewing queue.
  • Also need some more plain skirts-- I do have a black knee-length planned in the aforementioned queue, and I do already have a knee-length khaki one. It probably wouldn't hurt to add something chocolate brown to the mix, since I seem to be wearing a lot of browns or things that go with brown these days. And a denim one would be a versatile thing to have as well. Also considering a long black flowy-type one, since it would fit right in with my boho tendencies. (Though there is always the option of getting another of the long rayon ones from Dharma Trading Company and just not embroidering it this time... this is seriously one of the most comfortable skirts I've ever owned, and I do like the way it looks on me a lot. And it has pockets that don't add bulk to my hips--a big plus there! Yes, I am keeping this skirt, btw.)
  • A big one is coming up with some lightweight layering pieces, since I do have a tendency to get cold in air-conditioned spaces. So maybe some short or 3/4 sleeved lightweight jackets, or procure some of those lacy crocheted cardigans (since making those myself is not an option.) I've seen some of those big wrap scarves and they look nice, but given that I wouldn't be able to hold it around myself and play my flute at the same time, I'm not sure how practical an option that is for me.
  • When I have more time, I should probably sit down and take a serious look at the skirts I have too, and see if I can or need to come up with some solid-colored tops that would go with some of them. Preferably multiple skirts. I can think of a couple off the top of my head that I'm not sure if I have anything to go with.
  • Some other footwear options might not hurt either. I'm thinking particularly of a flat black sandal, since the only pair of black sandals I own has a heel and that doesn't go with everything style-wise (and isn't always the best option for walking.) I'd love to get a gladiator-style sandal, but I'm thinking I might get these instead because they're less trendy and therefore I can probably wear them longer. (That, and my black boots are getting worn out, and this site has the best price I've found so far on a replacement that will actually accommodate my wide feet-normal calf fitting problem. And unlike the boots I have now where the shafts are covered with badly-placed topstitching and elastic fitting panels--the only boots I could find in my size at the time, unfortunately--I could actually wear these with skirts.)
  • And even though I'm not sure they're still in style, I do think I need to ponder the possibility of a maxi-dress. After all, I am kind of a hippie at heart.
  • Other things I need that could be for both spring and next fall/winter: some khakis in a darker color (like camel--the ones I have now are more of a stone color and that doesn't go with a whole lot of what I have in the way of winter clothes), a pair of black pants that is actually long enough to not look stupid on me (the only pair that I currently own that comes close to that is a pair I've had since the beginning of college that has been worn and washed so often that the spandex is starting to come out of the weave, they've gotten kind of shapeless, and the tab on one of the zippered side pockets completely snapped off earlier this winter and now I have to leave the pockets open. It doesn't look nearly as good that way. But my attempts this past fall to find a replacement pair that fit me really well were a total fail.) And I'm thinking maybe I should get a pair of boyfriend-cut jeans--thanks to a couple of more recent Goodwill runs, I actually do have some bootcut/flares that fit me well now, but a straighter leg might be good to get at some point. Also a new white tank for layering/solo wearing--I should probably just go back to Old Navy and get one like the black and brown ones I got earlier this year.
So that's my preliminary assessment. I do still need to find some time to just goof off and put some outfits together, but that's not going to happen today.

p.s. Apparently I've inspired one of my crafty blogging friends to take on a similar project--go check out Angelina's blog if you want to see her take on it! And she found some other helpful sites that I hadn't, like this one for figuring out your best colors. If I read this right, apparently my "season" is "warm autumn."

February 14, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year!

Confession time, though this probably isn't a shocker (especially to you, Nicole!): I hate Valentine's Day. And not just because I'm single, though that does have a great deal to do with it...the whole holiday is just an overcommercialized glorification of coupledom, and coming less than two weeks before my birthday, it pretty much just dumps salt and lemon juice all over the papercuts of aging singleness. But I also hate it because I don't believe that people that really love each other should attempt to show that just because the greeting card companies and florists and sellers of cheesy heart-carrying teddybears decreed that the entire world should do so in the middle of February. What's so romantic about it if everyone else is doing it? And I also don't think it should be so focused on couples. What about your friends? Or your kids, if you have them? Or that random stranger you walk by on the street that could use a friendly smile? Why does it have to be so focused on having significant others, to the point where it's really hard not to feel bad about yourself if you don't have one because you've been bombarded with it all over the place ever since New Year's?

Ok, rant off. I'll admit, this year's mid-February has been a particularly rough one, given that the upcoming birthday is #29...the end of my 20s, and therefore making it highly probable that I'm going to still be single into my 30s. Which is something I never wanted to happen. So after spending the entire morning fighting off depression and getting really irritated with myself for still checking Facebook and therefore subjecting myself to all the mushiness, I decided to distract myself by enjoying Chinese New Year instead. So I treated myself to some takeout, watched an entire disc of Avatar: The Next Airbender (I know, anime is more of a Japanese thing, but this one seems to be rather Chinese-influenced to me), and worked on a sewing project. Remember this brocade thing I was playing around with?
Antoinette made a comment that she'd been keeping an eye out for brocades while trying to avoid the whole Asian theme...and I have to admit I was kind of chuckling to myself about that as I read it, because my plan all along was to embrace the Asian-ness of it!
So now you get to see what my secret project is turning into--the dragon in the center was the inspiration for the whole thing. I took it pretty much as far as I can today, since I underestimated how much of the velvety ribbon I need to complete the project. So feel free to start guessing what I'm making!

Also, I've still been working on the quilt, though I have no pics of that yet. I'm a third of the way through quilting inside the blocks. And I have to say, I don't think quilting is going to become my new favorite hobby! At least not the free-motion quilting...I had multiple issues with the first long row, so I'm kind of dreading the center, which is probably going to be next. My mom says it's due to the size of the quilt--since I'm making it as a bedspread to reach down to the floor, it's actually turned into a queen size rather than a twin size, which is making it much more cumbersome to work with. Hoping to get another good chunk of that done tomorrow, since I only have one lesson to teach tomorrow. Weather-permitting, of course...there's a threat of snow again. I only worked a total of one hour last week because of it, so I'm really not excited about that. Of course, this is one of the two students that actually came last week, so there's a pretty good chance I'll still be teaching tomorrow.

February 10, 2010

The Personal Style Project, phase 1 cont.: Who are you?

Oooh ooh, ooh ooh! (Great, now I'm going to have that song by The Who stuck in my head.) Anyway...

Moving on to part 3 of the Retro Chick guide to defining you personal style--now that I've more or less established the basics of what I like in fashion (note: that post is slightly edited because I pretty much entirely forgot my lower half in the original post), moving on to who I am.

My Job: I'm lucky...my actual career is being a musician. Most of my actual income from that comes in the form of teaching flute lessons. While I try to look somewhat professional for that (mainly so the parents will take me seriously, because the kids probably don't care), I do feel like I can allow my wardrobe to be a more funky, casual professional. No suits for me! I do teach band one day a week, and since it's a private school, I do have to make sure to respect the teacher's dress code--nothing too short, too tight, or showing cleavage. (Though, honestly, since the majority of my band is middle school boys, I'd prefer to do that anyway. And hurrah for camisoles.) I do occasionally get to perform, either as part of local groups or as a background musician for weddings and such, but generally all I need for that is something black. (I have a habit of grabbing anything slightly funky and black that I can find at the thrift stores as a result.) I also have a seasonal part-time job as a cashier at a garden center (this being the season that I'm off, obviously.) I do have a uniform of sorts for that, in the form of the T-shirt or hoodie that has the company logo on it, keeping my hair in a ponytail, and wearing some kind of sneaker and jeans (or longer shorts/capris in the summer) that it's ok to get dirt on. But I'm not going to consider that last part for this project, for obvious reasons. ;-)

What's my body shape? I'm actually pretty much an hourglass, which I think is why I tend to favor the stuff that's more fitted at the waist and the V-necks--those are my better features. (Though with the deeper V-necks, I do prefer to layer with camisoles and such. Don't really like the feeling that everyone's staring at my chest otherwise.) I'm definitely way more self-conscious about my lower half (especially my thighs), which is why I don't like really tight pants. Or if I have the more fitted thighs, I feel like I need the flare at the bottom to balance it out. (This is why I really need to have a more successful run at making my own jeans--so I can get the perfect amount of snug-but-not-tight at the top, without the gaposis at my waistband problem!)

[rant] Believe it or not, one of my biggest fitting challenges is actually my feet. Depending on the shoe, I've been ranging between a 9.5-10...and my feet are double-wide. Though I can often get away with just a regular wide, especially if I go for a size 10. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find affordable, stylish shoes in that size? Especially boots...apparently there's this assumption going on that double-wide feet also equal double-sized calves, which is not the case with me. I was the girl who had to wear boy's sneakers the whole time I was growing up, because they were the only ones that fit me, and this is why I got into wearing stuff like Converses and Birkenstocks--they're unisex and therefore they fit me. This is also why shoes are my fashion nemesis. [/rant]

What's my coloring?
I guess this one requires a picture, so here's one from when I was goofing off the other day trying to take an outfit picture. (Definitely not living up to the fashion blogs here on the background!) As you can see, I'm pretty pale, and I think I have a slightly warmer undertone to that--it's hard to tell sometimes since I also have rosacea and tend to sunburn easily. My eyes are actually dark brown, though they probably look black in this pic. And I like to pretend I'm a natural redhead...my hair actually was rather reddish (with gold highlights) for much of my 20s, but now that I'm getting close to the end of that, my hair is going mousy brown again. (My mom's did the same thing.) So now I help it remember that it's supposed to be auburn with the help of some henna. ;-) I think I look best in greens, blues and browns, especially the brighter and/or warmer shades of those. Though I do think that black also makes my hair look redder, and therefore I like it. Purple works too. I like yellow and orange, but I have to be careful with those because they can make me look kind of jaundiced. I can wear red as long as it's more of a burgundy-toned one--bright red looks awful on me. And I refuse to wear pink. Even if it needs help, I'm enough of a redhead that I can claim that it clashes with my hair! (Of course, I wouldn't wear it anyway...it's my least favorite color.) I don't like pastels on me in general, and I'm undecided about white--I do think that the more ivory tones work better on me, but I wear white anyway too. Sometimes white just goes with the outfit better.

What are my hobbies?
I actually think that my hobbies tend to influence my style--especially since, obviously, one of my biggest hobbies is making stuff! So let's set sewing, jewelry design, and all other things crafty aside for the moment.

I've always loved to read. I most often go for things in the fantasy/sci-fi, historical fiction, and classics genres. I have been known to do fashion based on books-- for example, this dress was kind of a mash-up of the 60s (via the tie-dye) and a somewhat modernized corset-over-bodice silhouette--it always made me think of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. This shirt was a direct inspiration from, of all things, the description of the cloak that Faramir gave Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings. And the main reason I bought this top at the thrift store was because the silhouette and especially the sleeves made me think of a modernized Jane Austen look.

On a related note, I also enjoy movies and my particular tv series, usually of the same genres. And again, I've been known to make things for everyday wear based on those. A few examples: This shirt was a direct inspiration from this dress in the Keira Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice. I pretty much blatantly copied Inara's shirt from Firefly (though in a different color...and I'm still tempted to copy that skirt!), and later stole some more inspiration (though not as obvious) from Kaylee in the same show. And more recently, there was turning one of Eowyn's signature dresses from the LotR movies into a more everyday shirt. (There's still a big temptation to attempt to do the same to this dress of Arwen's at some point.) Sometimes I can find jewelry inspiration from oddball sci-fi sources too, like this necklace--the idea came from an episode of Stargate SG-1. (Hard to see, but it's really the pattern of the necklace that inspired me, since I couldn't make it work with chunkier beads like I first tried. I need to fix that one...currently broken. Either that or remake it into a bracelet, since it never quite lay right anyway.) I'm also currently getting into Avatar: The Last Airbender, and am seriously considering a jewelry series inspired by that...

In my post-college days, I have gotten into more outdoorsy activities, like hiking and backpacking and canoeing and such. I do have somewhat of a specialized capsule wardrobe for those trips, so again, that doesn't really factor too much into this project. But I can see the influence on that in my fashion choices--I think a lot more about the ecology of fashion than I used to, have gotten into recycling clothes and jewelry via refashioning, and I do have way more of a tendency to go for nature-inspired colors and natural materials than I used to.

Music is a huge part of my life, aside from my flute-related activities. I actually spend way more time listening to non-classical music, and I have a rather large and ever-growing music collection-- since August, I've been doing a side project where I've been listening and blogging through my entire iPod (on a different site, since the RL friends I have who are most interested in this are there. Currently, I'm on albums that begin with R, so I have a ways to go yet!) Most of the time, it's either stuff from the 60s and 70s (especially The Beatles, which are pretty much my all-time favorite band...yes, I actually have 3 Beatles band tees, and no, I'm not getting rid of any of them!) , the 90s alternative I grew up with (which I still like for the most part), or the more modern stuff. I have to admit that I don't like the majority of mainstream music (read: pretty much anything that got nominated for the Grammys. I'm probably the only person in America who doesn't have a clue what Lady GaGa sings at this point!) and tend to listen to a lot more indie stuff, like The Decemberists, Andrew Bird, Arcade Fire, Death Cab For Cutie, Vampire Weekend, etc. (Kudos to you if you know anything by any of those groups.) And I love going to concerts-- I went to several last year, and have another one coming up in a couple of weeks (going to see Muse in Philadelphia!)

By this point in the project, I think I can actually summarize my style--it seems to be "Boho-fantasy hipster." Given my taste in books, movies and especially music, this actually makes perfect sense.

I have been working already on part 4 of her series, which is looking at what I have already. Though at the moment, I'm focusing more on my spring and summer wardrobe, since that's really what I'll be needing to sew for soonest. And I am already seeing things in it that either need some reworking or that just aren't appealing to me...at the same time, though, I'm reluctant to just get rid of them because, you know, I made that. Does anyone else have that problem?

Oh, and lest you think I'm spending all of my snow days obsessing over fashion, I'll have you know that as of today, my room has curtain rods, so that will help with measuring and getting those done. And I actually made a pretty good dent in quilting my leaf-covered bedspread today. I still have to quilt within the blocks (15 large-sized blocks in all), but all of the blocks are outlined and all of the borders are stitched around.) So I finally feel like I'm making some progress in here! If only I could make better progress in straightening up and organizing this place...really, all I want is to be able to wave a wand and have everything magically sort itself out!

February 8, 2010

Dreaming of summer...

...clothes, that is. Since apparently I now live in Alaska instead of the mid-Atlantic, is it any wonder?

Since I didn't have work until later, I braved the aftermath of Snowmageddon with my mom to go to Joann's--my original plan for today was to start assembling the quilt, but I discovered that I didn't have enough of the muslin that I got for the backing, since I had to make the quilt top larger than originally planned. (I guess I might be doing that tomorrow. We'll see, since I also have the sides for the rest of the ottoman reupholster job cut out and waiting for assembly.) And since I've been pondering my wardrobe quite a bit lately, one of the things I quickly settled on is that I'd like to add a simple black knee-length skirt to my wardrobe, since I think it'll go with a lot of things and the black skirt I have doesn't always go with everything due to the styling. So I figured I could justify adding some fabric to my stash for that... a linen-look poly-rayon blend that's not supposed to wrinkle a whole lot. (I know it looks grey here due to the lighting, but it really is black.) I'm planning to give a skirt from the most recent Burda mag a shot for this one. (I also splurged on this great printed knit there, since Joann's hardly ever has good knits, but let's just ignore that for now.)

And then when I got home, I was inspired to go through my samples of my current fabric stash to choose a couple fabrics to concentrate on using for some spring-summer clothes. (I spent some time last night partially going through what I have there, and figured I should probably be thinking of sewing additions to that now, and then in the summer I can work on sewing things for the fall and winter.) So here's what I pulled out to motivate myself to get the rest of this room sewing done so I can make clothes again!

1. An organic cotton jersey knit--it's really kind of a seafoam green color. I'm thinking shirt #102 from last June's Burda for this one.


2. A woven polyester in cream, seafoam, orange and a more pinky coral. The most likely candidate at the moment is McCall's 5809.

3. A purple 60s-printed lightweight sweater knit that I picked up at a dollar a yard several years ago at a Walmart sale. I'm thinking a lightweight shorter sleeved cardigan, but I haven't settled on a pattern on this yet. I have nothing in my stash patterns or Burda mags that seems to quite fit yet. I'm considering the Riviera Mini-Midi-Maxi Cardi from HotPatterns, but since the pattern alone is almost $20, I'm keeping my options open and will probably save this one for a later project.

4. This crinkled gold-embroidered turquoise is one that I got for Christmas a couple of years ago, I think. And I've been eyeing it for about a year trying to figure out what to do with it. I think I've finally settled on a pattern I've done with crinkly fabric before, Simplicity 5595 (the short flutter-sleeved one).

5. I found some inspiration the other day at EMS, of all places. (That's where I get a lot of my outdoorsy gear.) There was this cute blouse there with a gathered empire bust, mandarin collar and interesting button closure made out of a stripey sheer fabric. I almost bought it because it was on sale, but then I remembered I had this fabric in my stash and didn't need to pay $26 for it. I think I can figure something out based off of the May '09 Burda #110, though I may seriously take the sleeves from, say, #112 of the same issue.

6. This is another one I've been eyeing in my stash for awhile, an embroidered twill. I was thinking maybe a dress when I bought it, then I thought it would be perfect for Burda 3/07 #117, and then I thought maybe I should go back to a dress, but I think I'm back to the Burda skirt again. I'll just need to figure out what to do with the yard or so I'll have left over.

7: Now I'm not sure what I was thinking when I bought this particular fabric-- I've never really been a Francophile, not to mention one of the colors is hot pink! But I am in need of some cute summer pjs, so I think these will do nicely. I'm thinking maybe the Jane pjs off of the BurdaStyle site (with longer shorts), since I do have that pattern saved from back when they were free patterns. (Maybe I should just do the shorts from the November '09 Burda, since then the magazine would be good for something. Although I actually really do like one of the pj tops from this issue too-- I just don't think I have the yardage to make both out of this fabric.)

8. And then there's this turquoise polyester satin that I got for free--someone passed it to my mom, but she couldn't use it for quilts so I ended up with almost 4 yards of this stuff! It's a great color, but I've been having trouble figuring out what to do with it since it would be quite easy to make it look too nice for everyday wear (and I'm not sure it's nice enough for all of those fancier occasions I don't go to!) So part of it is going to become a jacket lining, at least. I spontaneously ordered some corduroy on sale at Fabric.com for $2.99 a yard to make this jacket (and therefore this is actually probably going to end up as a fall sewing project)--figured this would make a fun lining for it! I just hope the fabric's really more chocolate than it looks on screen, though I guess turquoise and black would go well together too! Um, and then while I was at it, I sort of got this and this to make those same blouse and jacket patterns that I'm using with the sheer metallic stripey fabric. (Been feeling an urge lately to add some plaid back into my wardrobe, probably a result of that revisiting my teenage style post. I tried to get something to refashion, but Goodwill didn't have anything in plaid that I liked this time. At $2.49 a yard, I figured I could give it a shot for these.)

And then there's the one thing I'd love to find an excuse to make, but haven't quite figured out yet...I have this retro 60s Simplicity dress pattern-- I'm thinking the style of the coral, but the length of the turquoise. But despite the plethora of suggested fabrics on the back of the envelope, I just don't seem to have anything in my stash that is calling out to me on this one! Any suggestions?

I know it looks like a lot, but I figure I can take a day to trace out patterns and then a day to cut out stuff, and then I can probably get through much of this pretty quickly. Barring any major fitting issues, of course. And once I get through finishing that ottoman slipcover and quilting that bedspread and making three sets of curtains...of course, it's looking like there's a very good chance that I'll have snow days both tomorrow (today now, I guess) and Wednesday, so as long as we don't lose power, I have no excuse not to sew!

February 4, 2010

The Personal Style Project: Inspiration file!

I've been looking around at some of my favorite inspirational websites (a bunch of old stuff from Anthropologie, and some more recent finds from places like ModCloth and Free People and other various websites), and in my old sketchbook where I've pasted pictures of and drawn sketches of clothes that have inspired me in the past. And I did find certain themes beginning to emerge of what I'm drawn to... (The first collage being a sampling of the things that have inspired me, and the second being things I've actually copied.)

  • I tend to be drawn to tops that, while mostly flowing, have some element of fitting--either at the waist, or an empire waist that's still somewhat defined at the actual waist. I tend to avoid tops that are shapeless or too tailored, with the exception of blouses that have some really exceptional detail to them. (See the pink and white blouse in the collage of stuff I made--the basis for my "Doolittle blouse" Anthropologie knockoff.)
  • Oddly, I'm also drawn to more tailored jackets--especially if they are longer and/or vintage looking and/or military-looking.
  • I also like draping, particularly in the realm of knit tops. However, I usually stay away from ruffles.
  • Despite my penchant for flowy tops, I'm drawn to tailored details within that, at least for the woven-fabric tops--pleating, gathering, interesting seamings, etc. I also tend to like details that are kind of a throwback to Medieval or Renaissance days, like lace-up stuff. (That's probably very 60s too, come to think of it.)
  • I also like a variety of textures--silky, velvety, denim, suede-like, leather, etc.
  • I'm drawn to colors that are either very bold or very earthy. Not so much neutrals, and definitely not pastels. If you've been following this blog for any length of time, it's no secret that I'm also quite fond of prints--generally, the bigger and more colorful (and, apparently, the harder to match with anything else I already own), the better!
  • I do like vintage, but the 60s and 70s are way more me than the 40s and 50s, which is where most of the vintage lovers seem to end up. At least, the swing dancers I know and the blogs I read that deal with vintage sewing.
  • My choice of bottoms is rather tied to the season--this time of year, all I want to wear is jeans and pants, but once the weather warms up, I'd rather wear skirts than shorts!
  • My accessory of choice is generally jewelry--I never really like the way I look in hats, I've already mentioned that shoes and I have an ongoing feud due to how uncooperative they tend to be in getting on my feet, I'm not really a scarf person (at least beyond "they keep my neck warm when I go outside"), and while I've seen a lot of that belt-over-clothes look lately that I like the look of, so far all of my shopping attempts to find a way to try it have failed. (I haven't found a belt that actually fits my waist yet, and the ones I own are basically for the utilitarian purpose of keeping my jeans where I want them!) This is usually in the form of beaded necklaces and earrings.
In part 3 of the RetroChick guide, she suggests that the next step is to take an honest assessment of who I am--what I do (both for work and for play), and my body type and coloring. So that's going to be the next post. Mainly because I'm going out of town tomorrow morning with the church's outing club (going to make my second attempt ever at skiing, which will hopefully go all right--my first time was one of the worst experiences of my life, but a big part of that was who I was with.) And I probably should have gone to bed an hour ago to prepare for that...

Edit: I forgot a couple of things, mainly due to not having much in the way of inspiration pics for them!
  • Jeans and pants: I don't like skinny jeans or leggings or short shorts. In fact, I prefer skirts in the summer for the simple reason that it shows less of my leg. I'm most comfortable in pants that are flared or wide-legged, and my favored skirt silhouettes are long and flowing (think hippie-style) or knee-length A-line.
  • Shoes: I tend to go for boots with chunky heels, and strappy sandals that can accommodate my excess foot width. (But nothing between my toes...I can wear toe rings, but shoes that do that drive me nuts!) Either that, or my trusty Birkenstocks. Yeah, I'm so fashionable. ;-) When I have to do other shoes, I prefer to get Mary Jane-style shoes since the strap helps them stay on my feet. And I hate loafers.

February 3, 2010

The Personal Style Project, phase 1 cont. : Fashion flashback!

As mentioned in yesterday's post, one of the most helpful resources I've found so far in trying to figure out how to define my personal style is a guide on retrochick.co.uk. So I'm working through that. It's a little cold (and dark) to take a walk, and I have sort of started with the lookbook thing. But what looked like the most fun suggestion on the first main section of the guide was to think about what you wore as a teenager, when you "weren’t dressing for anyone else." And that sounded like a fun post topic! So bring on the '90s flashback!

Admittedly, I didn't quite have total freedom of what to wear as a teen...my school had a fairly strict dress code. No blue jeans, no printed t-shirts, no spaghetti straps, no backless sandals, nothing really tight or skin-baring or overly short (the "skirts no shorter than 4" above the knee when kneeling" rule was one of my main inspirations for sewing my own, since being one of the taller girls in the class, it was hard to find skirts that worked with that!) But in a way, I think that kind of forced some creativity on me--how to express myself within limits, especially since I was the girl who hated having brand names plastered on my clothing and really didn't want to dress like all of the Aberzombie-field hockey-playing preps.

But here's what I did end up wearing... I wish I had pictures, but sadly, I don't have too many pics of either what I made or wore on a day-to-day basis back then. Most of my teenage pics are from things like school semi/formal events and retreats where we all wore bummy clothes.

  • During my earliest teen years, usually what I wore was the colored jeans we were allowed to wear (black most often, or the weirder colors like hunter green and brick) and either huge baggy sweaters, or huge baggy plaid shirts over top of other stuff. I also remember that there was a year (I think it was 8th grade) when I wore black hiking boots all the time... I really wanted a pair of Doc Martens, but they were out of my budget, so that was my cheap substitute. Honestly, at this point it wasn't entirely a fashion statement, even though this was when the grunge look was pretty popular. It was more a way to cover up as much as possible, since I was still one of the curvier girls in the class at the time (especially compared to all the skinny, petite, athletic future Aberzombies....I was never overweight, but I looked it compared to them) and was rather self-conscious about it.
  • Believe it or not, the turning point for me was an article in a teen magazine about thrift shopping. I'd always figured that was a way for people who couldn't afford to shop at the mall to get clothes before that...it never occurred to me that it could be a good way to find unique items! (Besides, this was the age where my parents were basically setting a budget for me and saying I had $X to spend on clothes for the year and anything above that was coming out of my own pocket....so then I could get more for my money!) So somewhere during 8th grade, I started going to Goodwill every time I could convince my mom to take me. (She wasn't a fan.)
  • So now onto the fun part...what I actually wore. During school days, my pants weren't really much to speak of, since I was still limited to the colored jeans and khakis. I lived in blue jeans during weekends and days off, though! My absolute favorite pair was a pair of faded flared Paris Blues jeans with a bleached-out looking butterfly print going up the legs--I remember they cost about $30 and I thought they were so expensive but I couldn't pass them up. (There's my thrift store junkie mentality at work!) I wore them until they got ridiculously faded and threadbare, somewhere in my early college years.
  • Funky skirts were a staple for me, too. Particularly long ones. My go-to favorite was a black, grey and white swirl-printed long polyester skirt, which I often paired with metallic silver boots and a metallic silver pleather jacket! (My best friend's younger sister borrowed that entire outfit when the 7th and 8th graders, who shared a building with the high school, decided they wanted a Spirit Week with dress-up days too and had "Future Day".) I also had two favorites that I made, both also long--the first was a royal blue wrap skirt with a cartoonish hippie-looking allover daisy print in white, lavender, light blue and this weird chartreuse-ish green, and the other was a sheer (and fully lined) stripey sort of print alternating this brown almost woodgrain stripe and a silvery leopard print with these large orchid-type flowers printed on it and metallic floral stuff woven into it. (Man, I wish I had pics of these...though I think I actually do have one of the wrap skirt somewhere, since I still had that one at the end of college when I realized I should be taking pics of this stuff.)
  • There was this phase, particularly in the 8th-10th grade range, where I wore a lot of vests. Usually homemade ones. The three I remember the most clearly were: 1) a black cotton parrot print that I hand-sewed colorful seed beeds to outline the parrots with. (I also had matching huge dangly seed bead earrings that I made to go with.) 2)Another cotton print, this one being a blue and green print that made me think of water. Probably highly toxic water, given that yellowish-green stripe bit... 3) The clincher: I made a cropped vest with a vintage pattern that my mom still had from the 70s. (She was sewing back then too.) Out of snakeskin-printed vinyl that I found in her stash. (Probably also from the 70s.) Worst finishing job ever--it was unlined, and if you looked inside, you could see the pattern piece descriptions and numbers written in there because I traced out the pattern pieces on the vinyl and didn't think to put that information closer to the edges, where it would be hidden with the seams and facings!
  • Vintage-looking jackets were also a favorite of mine. Two of my favorites were actually found on that very first Goodwill run in 8th grade--one was a lightweight brown leather (or probably pleather), and the other was a black velveteen with patch pockets and a nice fat collar, which were $10 apiece and enough to sell me on the joys of thrifting. (The black one was also one I wore until the lining literally rotted out of the jacket sometime in college-I think I also tore it across the back too, since it wasn't quite wide enough for my shoulders.) I also had a couple of jackets left over from my mom's 70s wardrobe, both of which she made--one was a teal velveteen with a shawl collar, and the other was a brown tweedy sort of fabric. I remember thinking it unusual that it was also shot through with turquoise and orange bits, but honestly, I've never had a brown blazer that was as versatile as that one was. If it hadn't always been a little too small and short in the sleeves, I'd probably still have it. (Honestly, I wish I still had it anyway. I hope it went to a good thrifter's home and that she loved it.) The last one is an orangeish-tannish leather hip-length coat with piping and leather-covered buttons that's either chocolate brown or black--it's hard to tell--also my mom's from the 70s. But I was smarter about this one--even though it's also a little too short for my arms, I realized I will never find a leather vintage coat that awesome for anything I can afford again, and I still own it. And wear it often on the in-between seasons. I just wish I hadn't taken off the belt loops and trenchcoat-esque belt when I was in high school--I hated it then, but I bet I'd love it now.
  • (And hey, look, I actually do have a pic of this! From about 2 years ago. Actually, I really like this outfit all together, and I even match the 70s decor in the boba tea shop!)
  • Shoes were my fashion nemesis. (Actually, shoes are still my fashion nemesis.) Mainly because I have very wide, and therefore hard-to-fit, feet. This is when I got into wearing boots a lot. And I did have my old-school black high-top Chucks that I would doodle on with colored pens during class when I was bored. (Yeah, I only used plain black or blue ink pens when I had to--my notes were a rainbow of turquoise, purple and green ink otherwise!) Also wore those until they fell apart....I want a new pair! And this is also when I got into the Birkenstock thing--I loved that they looked hippie and actually fit my feet no problem due to the unisex factor.
  • As far as accessories went, my style now is pretty much a further evolution of what I wore back then-- silver over gold, dangly earrings, beaded jewelry that I made myself, and rings on multiple fingers.
  • I did like t-shirts in the off-school time, and tank tops in the summer--usually I'd try to go for the wider straps so I wouldn't get in trouble for anything along the "you're going out dressed like that?!" lines. During school, it was often plain but brightly colored knit tops (within the dress code--striped or tie-dyed when I could get away with it) or funky printed blouses.
I've been looking into the different style definitions too... I've suspected all along that I have a very strong boho streak, given my propensity for things like ethnic-looking prints, nature-inspired jewelry, tie-dye and long skirts, but I've been having trouble trying to figure out how to make that fit with my enduring love for things like t-shirts, hoodies, and funky but tailored-looking jackets. (See here and here.) But I had a random flash of inspiration today, and I think I might be on to something...

Speaking of hoodies, I'm really excited because I've been wanting a plain black one for awhile, and haven't been able to find one for some reason. I found one at Goodwill today, and got it for $1.75 because it was tagged with the half-off color of the week! It's a bit big in the waist, but for that price, I will gladly take my serger to it--especially since it fits perfectly around my hips!

February 2, 2010

The Personal Style Project, phase 1: Musings and Evaluation

So, since deciding that my style's been in a rut and I need to rethink the way I've been dressing, I've been doing some research into the whole thing. Mostly in the form of some library books and style magazines, as well as a good bit of web-surfing. I've started looking at some fashion blogs, and found a few useful article series from those. And I've also been spending some time on Wardrobe Remix and getting an idea of what I do and don't like. (Although I'm thinking that might be a more useful tool for me when the weather gets warmer--it's completely dominated by the skirts-over-tights look right now, and with the exception of Sundays when I usually dress up a little more for church, I get cold too easily to make that a day-to-day look for me!)

Amidst all of the fashion do's and don'ts, I actually found the best and timeliest bit of advice I could have from a recent issue of Elle (splurged on a couple of fashion mags back in December with the thought of making collages of what I liked to help me out with this) in a Q&A. The question was, "Help! My closet has been taken over by crazy, impractical prints and too many sequins. How can I incorporate more classic items?" Their answer was, "I would say you're either a thrift store junkie or your mom is [some apparent celebrity I've never heard of]. Either way, I love that you have nothing but crazy prints and sequins. My advice here is do not abandon your cool personal style. You don't need khakis or blue jeans just to conform." (It went on to suggest going for classics that are fun and versatile, and that the key is silhouettes--fitted with flowy, etc.) So that's the approach I'm taking--I don't have to stop wearing the things in my closet that I love, I'd just like to learn to put them together in outfits better. And I do have a couple of mix-and-matchable basics in mind to work towards sewing. (Of course, so far they're all black. I need to work on that list.)

One of the other bits of advice I found was to take pictures of your outfits, so I've been trying to do that over the last couple of days to help me evaluate what's working, what's not, and where I might need to think about new things to sew or thrift or otherwise add. I'm putting them in a Flickr set, so you can look if you want to, but then I won't bore you if you don't. :-) (Also, any comments or suggestions that any of you reading it want to make are welcome-- I can take the constructive criticism.)

February 1, 2010

that's confidential.

Since we got snow...again.... over the weekend, and I already had the day off from my usual Sunday afternoon flute practice, I spent some time sewing. Got the baby bibs all machine-sewed together, and am in the process of hand-sewing on the snaps. And then, rather than stay in the cold basement to do something practical like, say, cut out curtains for my room, I decided to play instead. So here's my random work-in-progress.

I know what it's going to be. I'm just not telling yet. ;-)


On a random side note, I haven't forgotten about my personal style project. I've been working on a post for 3 or 4 days now, but am finding it surprisingly difficult to articulate my thoughts. I may have to do a couple of posts to avoid the long rambling one that it's turning into that no one really wants to read. In the meantime, I've also been taking some advice from several blogs and taking pictures of my outfits each day. (Except for yesterday.) I'm undecided as of yet whether to just use them for my own personal reference, or to actually post them in here...