Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Extra Pretty

When it's dreary and rainy like today it's easy to feel gloomy, so it's days like this when I employ some of my simple little tricks for feeling extra pretty. There's nothing like feeling great about the way you look to combat the winter blahs -- or any kind of blahs, for that matter.

1. Stockings instead of pantyhose. It used to be that women preferred pantyhose because stockings needed a garter belt to stay up. That problem has been eliminated with the advent of stay-up stockings, so why not boost your sexy factor a little? No one knows they're there, but somehow you still feel like a vixen.

2. Perfumed hair. Your hair retains the scent of perfume better than anywhere else on your body, plus it feels so luxurious to spritz your coif. While you're at it, go ahead and indulge that fantasy about Johnny Depp nuzzling your neck and being intoxicated by your scented locks.

3. Groomed eyebrows. Nothing says femme fatale like sharply-defined, meticulously groomed eyebrows. Whether you choose to make them thin and arching or thick and straight, your eyebrows are what frame your eyes and add drama to your face. The Coveted recently did a great post with tips for creating the perfect brow. Eyebrows are one of those things that when they're changed, people will notice the difference although they won't be able to put their finger on exactly what you did. Just out of curiosity, how many people can correctly name the actress to the right? (By the way, clicking the photo will give it away.)

4. Jeweled hands. My hands are not one of my best features, so I tend to neglect them. But when I want to be pretty right down to my fingertips I pile on lots of shiny rings, à la Anna Karenina. I sometimes wear as many as 4 or 5 rings on each hand; it feels decadent even though many of my rings are just silver with semi-precious stones such as topaz or aquamarine. One product I really love for keeping my hands soft and young-looking is Age Correct by Sally Hansen.

5. A stylish handbag. It's no secret that I'm pretty lazy about swapping out my handbags. Let's face it, it's a pain, there isn't always time, and inevitably you forget to transfer something you end up needing. Most days I stick to one of my standard fallbacks, or else throw everything in my Timbuk 2 bag, which can also hold my laptop. But if I really need to have that finishing touch, I make the extra effort to pick out a stylish bag to complete my ensemble.

Today I used tricks #1, 2, and 3. What are your secrets for feeling extra pretty?

The outfit:
Hat: From a hat shop in Hamburg, Germany
Scarf: Promod
Long-sleeved top: A 'hand-me-up' from my younger sister
Green knit top: Forever 21
Obi belt: Sunhee Moon
Skirt: Old Navy
Boots: Art Shoes

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Making it Work, Part 2

I got quite a bit of response on my "Making it Work" post the other day, so I thought I'd continue the discussion of dressing for your specific figure. This is something that everybody ought to have an opinion about, since we've already established that no matter what size you wear, you will always encounter specific problems dressing your specific shape. I always appreciate people taking the time to comment, so please stop in and share your thoughts. It's not just me you're talking to; the comments are there for everyone to read and connect with.

One of the commenters asked about height, and whether it plays a role in styling for your figure. Absolutely it does, especially when you're talking about things like cropped pants or the length of skirt hems. It can also influence where you should wear a belt; i.e., up on your ribcage, slung low over your hips, or at your natural waist. It influences how you should style boatneck tops vs. V-necks, and when to wear contrasting shoes vs. shoes that match your tights. Contrasting shoes might look great with certain skirt lengths but disastrous with others; a boatneck top might look terrible until you add a long scarf to elongate your torso. It's a good idea to figure out what shape you are so that you know what styles just won't work regardless of the accessorizing you try. If you're trying to look taller, then you should probably avoid most cropped pants; if you're already tall and trying to balance out your proportions, then you probably want to stay away from maxi dresses (which I think look terrible on everybody, but that's just my opinion). As for Ugg boots, can we just ban those entirely, please? Hello, they make your ankles look like tree trunks. But I digress.

Height, size, and shape aren't the only factors that should influence your style. A far too commonly-overlooked issue, and one that is absolutely within your power to change right this very minute is posture. Correct posture adds inches to your height and subtracts inches from your girth. Pretty nice equation, huh? Good posture is the one and only reason I can wear the outfit I have on today, which would otherwise make me look like I have no figure at all, not to mention accentuating my tummy roll (Yes, even size 6's have tummy rolls!). Good posture is also kinder to your back, and those of us who are nearing or beyond 40 know how important it is to take good care of your back.

The next time you're trying on clothes, try standing up straight, pushing your shoulders back and holding your head high, and pulling your stomach in tight -- don't suck it in, just press it towards your spine a little. See how much better that dress looks? Now add a belt in just the right spot, and voila! You just grew an inch or two, lost 5 pounds, and developed a tiny waist. It might feel awkward at first, but honestly it doesn't take long to get used to, and pretty soon you'll reach a point where it actually hurts to slouch. Posture is a universal truth for every shape, size, and height. Another universal truth? Tummy rolls. *sigh*

Today's outfit:
T-shirt: Michael Stars
Sweater: Tulle
Scarf: Banana Republic
Skirt: Moon Collection
Belt: ???
Shoes: Paolo
Hat: Vintage (thanks for the catch, slogoin' vws!)

Monday, November 24, 2008


This dress is from J. Crew; I wish I had one in every color they made because it fits beautifully and is very flattering on my shape. I frequently pair it with off white or camel, but today I decided to try something a little different and go with blue instead. I didn't realize until just now how much of the rest of the outfit was from Noa Noa.

As I was taking my photos this evening, Georgie made it clear that she needed to be in at least one. I'm pretty sure she was excited about the fact that her toy matches my dress.

Dress: J. Crew
Cardi, belt, tights, tulle skirt: Noa Noa
Shoes: John Fluevog

Millinery Workshop

I've been remiss in not posting sooner about my wonderful experience in last weekend's millinery workshop. A couple of my creations have already been posted here, but today I'll talk a little about the class itself and the process of making hats.

The class was taught by Wayne Wichern, who has a workshop at his home in Redwood City. Wayne has been a milliner for more than 20 years, and also teaches sewing classes at Cañada College. He's wonderfully talented and also incredibly patient and good-humored. The course is set up so that everyone can get whatever they want out of it; you can work independently and really challenge yourself, but Wayne is right there to offer advice and help whenever you need it. It was 3 full days of instruction and lab time, during which I managed to turn out 6 completed hats. When I left on the last day, I really felt like I had all the skills I need to keep going with it, which I fully intend to do.

Creating the basic shape of the hat isn't complicated so much as it is physically demanding. The first step in making a felt hat is to stretch the felt using a lot of steam and even more muscle. The hat is stretched and secured to a wooden form with the use of string and tacks, then allowed to cool and dry overnight. Once the edges are cut off and finished out with ribbon, then the real fun begins: dressing the hat. This is where you can really allow your imagination to run wild. Wayne's workshop is like a candy store of colorful ribbon, fabrics, silk flowers, feathers, and just about anything else you can think of. He has a dazzling array of different blocks to work with, from whimsical retro styles to hip, modern ones.

Hats have been a passion of mine for many years now, and I'm looking forward to doing a lot more with this new skill. My head is already buzzing with ideas for original designs, and I've got several bids going on eBay for various blocks. If everything goes according to plan, I will be launching my very own Etsy shop in the near future!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Making It Work

I often get accused of being able to wear whatever I want because I'm a size 6. I'm here to tell you that that's simply not the case. Many of the styles that I love are in fact designed for a curvier, bustier frame than mine, and I'm forced to make do with what's out there. As a result, I've learned to adapt a lot of styles to suit my somewhat rectangular dimensions and size 36A bust.

Clothing should be styled to flatter the particular body it is draped on, thus it is perfectly acceptable for the same item to look completely different depending on who wears it. We've all fallen in love with that beautiful sweater that looks amazing on the hanger, only to put it on and discover that it makes us look like we're wearing a potato sack. With some items there's nothing to be done except to walk away, but sometimes you can take that shapeless sack and style it in a way that works for you.

Now I'm certainly not advocating running out and buying all the latest trendy clothing and forcing it to suit you; far from it. What I AM saying is that sometimes all it takes is a little imagination to adapt a style to flatter your body. Belts are perfect for giving shape and definition to your waist when it's hidden beneath baggy or bulky styles. Layering is a great way to solve all sorts of problems, from sleeves that are too short to a neckline that is too low. Skirts and dresses can be layered too, to change both the length and the fullness. The end result will not only be more interesting, it will also be completely yours.

When I spotted this cashmere sweater years ago in the store window, I immediately wanted it. The thick, soft luxuriousness of the knit and the unusual pale greenish-yellow color were so enticing that I went in and tried it on. It looked boxy and terrible. It made my bust look smaller and my waist nonexistent. So what did I do? I bought it anyway. It was so appealing to me in every other respect that I knew I had to figure out a way to make it work.

In the case of the sweater the only thing really lacking is a fitted waist, which the elastic belt easily takes care of. Another notable item in my wardrobe that is really not cut for my figure is my Crystal Candy dress. When I saw it online I loved the length, the colors, and the pattern. It was on sale for $20. In every way it was perfect for me, except that I haven't the cleavage that the top of the dress is cut for. So rather than wear it alone I layer it with other tops, and it looks great. Adding a belt further accentuates my small waist, which in turn makes the rest of my figure look more hourglass and proportioned.


The point I'm trying to make is that no matter what sort of figure you have, don't assume that you can't wear a particular style. Maybe it's just that you need to try wearing it in a different way.

Sweater: Anne Taylor
Scarf: A gift from Sal
Skirt: Anthropologie
Leggings: Kenzie
Boots: MIA
Belt: Red Dress Shoppe


This is one of the hats I created at my millinery workshop last weekend. As if the rich, eggplant purple wasn't eye-catching enough, I decided I needed to adorn it with a bright blue band and top it off with a peacock feather. I decided this on Saturday evening as I was driving home. My very next thought was, "Where in the hell am I going to get a peacock feather before tomorrow morning?" My first stop upon returning to San Francisco was Mark's house, and what did I find waiting for me there? A peacock feather that he had randomly picked up for me while he was out running errands that day. I kid you not.

I love the look and feel of layered skirts, especially when the bottom layer is tulle. It makes a delightful swishy sound and keeps your legs toasty warm. Plus it feels soft and girly, as well as a touch old-fashioned. I layered this purple tulle skirt underneath a bias-cut knit one for extra movement and drape. The teal skirt is actually a mid-calf length, but here I hiked it up a little and used the obi belt to hold it in place. The outfit felt so good that I was inspired to try a Kasmira-style twirl.

Hat: Made by Audi!
Top: thrifted
Cardi: A cast-off from my sister
Tulle skirt: Noa Noa
Knit skirt: LA Made
Boots: Modern Vintage
Obi: ??

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Everything Looks Black

Tuesday's outfit was a mix of navy and black, a tough combo to photograph accurately. The top is black with a navy floral print, the skirt is solid black, the scarf is a very dark navy with a white pattern, and the vest is actually more of a deep charcoal gray denim. I'm still getting used to the display on this new computer; most everything in this outfit looks black to me.

Top: Noa Noa
Vest: Promod
Skirt: A cast-off from my sister
Scarf: Ralph Lauren
Shoes: John Fluevog


I'm still getting caught up; this was Monday's outfit. It features one of the hats I made in the millinery workshop I went to over the weekend, which I must say was one of the most worthwhile things I've done EVER. More on that later; in the meantime I'm still setting up my new computer and getting up to date on my latest outfits.

Top: ?? I got it several years ago in Copenhagen
Necklace: From a local import store
Suede Skirt: Anne Taylor Loft
Boots: MIA
Hat: Made by Audi!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Computer

Boy, I have some serious catching up to do. Several days' worth of outfit photos have been stacking up while I have been struggling to get my brand new computer up and running. I'm not really very computer savvy anyway, and to make matters worse I have switched from a Mac to a PC, so it's going to take some time for me to be up to full speed again. These next few posts will be brief so that I can get caught up in a hurry.

This outfit:
Long-sleeved shirt: La Redoute
Sleeveless shirt: F21, thrifted
Obi belt: ??
Skirt: Anne Taylor
Leggings: American Apparel
Boots: MIA
Necklace: Pieced together with a ribbon from another necklace and a little keychain ornament that came with an Etsy order

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Pursuit

It's been ages since I've worn this little plaid hat, but my upcoming millinery class has really inspired me. The prospect of learning something new is always very invigorating for me, whether it's a new craft, a new language, or some other random skill (Those dining room chairs in the pictures I posted yesterday? I did the caning -- i.e., the woven seat part -- myself. Don't ask me how long it took.). I love throwing myself into new pursuits from time to time, and when I decide to take up something new I give it everything I've got. I generally get really good at something before I decide whether to continue pursuing it. Usually by then it's too late, of course; the skill is cemented forever whether I like it or not. I'm sure I could still cane a chair like a pro, although the thought of ever doing it again fills me with dread. My fingertips are aching just thinking about it.

I've done a little pattern mixing in this outfit by pairing the plaid hat with this vest. I like the way the black accents -- hat, belt, and shoes -- accentuate the details in the vest and argyle socks. An outfit of neutrals such as this one needs punchy accents to keep it from looking too drab.

Just as it has happened to me before, a complete stranger walked by me at work and exclaimed, "I like your hat!" It continues to amaze me how much of a response hats elicit. I'm pretty confident that this upcoming class will produce some comment-worthy creations.

Hat: San Diego Hat Co.
Shirt: H&M
Vest: Steam Trunk
Skirt: Noa Noa
Socks: Sock Dreams
Shoes: John Fluevog

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Creativity Unleashed

I really adore this new Noa Noa dress -- this is already the second time I've worn it since I brought it back from Paris just a few weeks ago. Today I gave it more of a relaxed look by adding the Western-style boots (from an unknown Italian manufacturer) and the belt that Mark and I made. The brown knit shirt is from Anne Taylor, the scarf is from my local import store, and the tights are also from Noa Noa.

As promised, here are a few pictures of the recent work I've done on my little apartment (all these photos are clickable). After I moved the refrigerator out of my shoebox-sized kitchen and into my unnecessarily-large dining room, I was inspired to make all sorts of other changes, of which the dining room paint was the most recent. I posted my kitchen wall graphic project before, and since that time I added all these rail-mounted storage gadgets from Ikea, as well as this tall, narrow shelving unit, magnetic spice rack, and pot rack (also all from Ikea). I also painted my cabinet doors a bright apple green from the drab white they had been.

In the dining room, I traded a giant round dining table for a small one with drop-down leaves, replaced a large wooden chest with a small computer desk, and added this gorgeous marigold color to the walls. Even with the addition of the refrigerator I still have more open space in there than I did when most of the room was consumed with the round table. The new color actually makes the room feel larger, and helps to tie together the different colors in my 2 large pieces of artwork. Note the sleeping dog in the photo to the left; that's how Georgie looks about 90% of the time.

Several years ago I decided I was really bored with biotech and wanted to do something vastly different. I got about halfway through an interior design program before I decided that my scientific career had taken a turn for the better and I was going to stick with it. I'm happy with the decision I made, but I still feel those creative urges and am constantly searching for outlets for it in my daily life. Besides my office wear, my apartment is the place I most frequently unleash my creativity.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Small Effort

Just a quick post today, since I've spent all evening painting my dining room and am officially exhausted. I'm really pleased with the results though, and will post pictures in the near future of the new color as well as some recent work I've done on both my dining room and my kitchen. With a couple of new pieces of furniture, a few storage innovations, and a couple coats of paint, these rooms have gone from either useless (in the case of the dining room) or unusable (in the case of the kitchen) to both functional and lovely. I just love apartment living, where relatively small efforts turn out to be major victories.

Today's Outfit:
Sweater: H&M
Dress: Crystal Candy
Obi belt: Sunhee Moon
Tights: American Apparel
Boots: Modern Vintage

Friday, November 7, 2008

Eleven Little Things

So the lovely Sal over at Already Pretty tagged me with this meme about a hundred years ago, but at the time I was on vacation and when I got back I was so busy that I was barely able to keep up with my regular posts. I randomly remembered it just now and figured I'd better get cracking.

1. Clothing Shop:
Noa Noa, hands down. Sadly, they have no stores in the US.
2. Furniture Shop: Though the prices can be astronomical, I still love all the modern classics at Design Within Reach.
3. Sweet: Lemon bars
4. City: If I could live in any city in the US, it'd be the very one I live in now: San Francisco. If I was to move abroad, I'd love to live in Copenhagen.
5. Drink: Maker's Mark Manhattan
6. Music: Right now I'm loving Hjálmar, an Icelandic reggae band. Reggae sung entirely in Icelandic that deals with topics like dead sheep, elf women, and icy roads? Come on, what could be more delightful?
7. TV Series: I think my all-time favorite is still M*A*S*H. I was a kid in the 70's.
8. Film: Amelie
9. Workout: Walking my dog, Georgie -- or better yet, sailing with her.
10. Pastries: Cheese danish
11. Coffee: Any of Blue Bottle's coffees, black.

I know the meme specifies that you must tag others, but instead I'm just going to invite anyone who feels like it to share these 11 little tidbits about yourself.

Hatmaker, Hatmaker, Make Me a Hat

Some of you may have noticed before now that I really have a thing for hats. I'd probably wear them a lot more if only I had a large enough selection. But all that is about to change, because I've decided to take a 3-day millinery course next weekend. I'm so excited about it I can hardly sit still. By the end of the course I will have made at least FOUR HATS ALREADY! That alone is worth the price of admission, but the possibility of being able to design and create my own hats afterwards is really appealing. I will definitely be sharing the experience and my creations after the course.

Today's outfit features this little wrap dress from Forever 21. The dress is impossible to wear without leggings or pants underneath because of its tendency to fly open in even the softest of breezes, so I chose these grey leggings from Noa Noa. I love the way the button-embellished cuffs look scrunched down over my John Fluevog mary janes. The sheer leopard blouse is from La Redoute, and the belt is from the Red Dress Shoppe.

Body on Tap

Looking at this outfit again I'm not really sure I like it. But no matter; what's important is that I tried something a little different. I'll leave it up to my readers to decide if this one was a winner or a loser. What I really wanted to talk about in this post was my hair.

This shiny, soft hairdo is brought to you by Anchor Steam Beer. What, you haven't heard of the old beer-in-your-hair trick? Allow me to explain. You know how after a party you wind up with all those forlorn, half-finished beers, the ones that someone opened and then abandoned because they couldn't remember where they set it or which one was theirs? Well, I'm here to tell you that there's a use for them. Flat beer is in fact a wonderful conditioner for your hair, and leaves it super soft and full of body.

I didn't throw a party, but a couple of months ago I bought several cases of Anchor Steam Beer in plastic bottles to take to Burning Man. The plastic bottles are great because they're lightweight and won't accidentally get broken, but they don't have the shelf life of beer in glass bottles. I cracked open one of my leftovers the other night and discovered that the beer was completely flat, so I decided to use it in my hair.

The best way is to completely soak your hair with the beer, then wrap plastic wrap around your hair and wait 20 or 30 minutes before shampooing and conditioning like normal. If you don't have time for that, you can do what I did yesterday: rinse your hair in the shower, pour on the beer and let it sit for a few minutes, and then shampoo and condition. It's important to really shampoo thoroughly or you'll end up smelling like a brewery (Unless you happen to work at a brewery; then you wouldn't care. I verified this last night with my friend who actually does work at a brewery.). Then just style your hair like normal. The effects of the beer last several days, especially if you don't shampoo every day and only use conditioner instead.

The outfit:
Button-down shirt: Guess
Wrap cardigan: S
Cropped pants: Noa Noa
Tights: American Apparel
Shoes: Bronx
Brooch: Vintage

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lucky Inspiration

I got the inspiration for this outfit from the most recent issue of Lucky magazine. The outfit pictured actually shows a long suede jacket belted over a skirt and top, but it gave me the idea to use this shirtdress in the same way. My version has the added benefit of being wearable all day, whereas a suede jacket would be too warm for indoors. The original outfit is shown to the right.

The outfit looks complicated but was actually pretty easy to assemble. I started with a neutral layer; lightweight camel sweater, brown linen skirt, and tights. Over this I added the dress, leaving all the bottom buttons open and buttoning the top up all the way. Finally, I added this big red scarf to add a splash of color, and of course the belt to hold it all together. This could easily have been layered over another dress instead, provided the layer underneath was just a little bit longer than the shirtdress.

Sweater: La Redoute
Skirt: H&M
Dress: Diane von Furstenberg
Tights: Falke
Shoes: Joy Chen
Scarf: H&M
Belt: Made by Mark and I