Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Feliz Navidad

Well blogger friends, this is my last post before I take a break for the holidays. Mark and I, along with 8 other friends, have rented a house down on the Yucatan Peninsula and will be spending Christmas and New Year's Eve lounging in the sun, drinking margaritas, and eating ceviche. This is the third year straight that I've spent the holidays in Mexico, but this year I have extra cause for merriment since I get to spend it with Mark.

First let's have an end-of-the-year recap of what a fantastic boyfriend Mark is. I've previously established that in addition to being incredibly thoughtful and sweet, the boy is also very handsome and knows how to rock a hat, is talented at crafts and fixing things, and surprises me with gifts of shoes. His latest feat of amazing boyfriendness? Getting me exactly what I wanted for Christmas, which is... more shoes! A man who understands the importance of shoes to a woman's happiness is truly a keeper.

Were these Fly London booties made to go with the leather jacket I brought back from Paris, or what? They have the same buttery texture and rich purple color. They also make my feet look tiny. And since it has now been several months since the last time I got a new pair of shoes, they are all the more special to me. Curbing my clothes shopping for the last few months has had a lot of unexpected benefits, the most notable being that I've gotten a lot more finicky with what I'd even consider buying, and as a result I appreciate each new item much more.

Not surprisingly, this outfit was built to show off the new shoes. Since I wanted to wear them with a short skirt, I first added the leggings for warmth and the thick socks for a little contrast. Since the socks are olive green with teal stripes, that made the rest of the outfit straightforward to select, and was an easy way of being able to offset the bright teal of the skirt with the dark olive cardigan. The blue and green necklace further strengthens the color combination. There's a lot of color in this outfit, but the deep saturated shades make the overall effect appropriate for winter.

Jacket: Zadig & Voltaire
Cardigan: American Eagle Outfitters (a gift)
Top: thrifted
Necklace: ??
Skirt: Anthropologie
Tights, socks: Noa Noa
Shoes: Fly London

Whatever holiday you're observing this season, I hope it brings you everything your heart desires. I'd like to thank all my blog friends for taking the time to read my posts, and for all your wonderful support and comments. I'll see you again in 2009. In the meantime I'll get in the spirit for Mexico, and wish you all Feliz Navidad!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Reader Question: Adding Interest to Your Wardrobe

I tend to be fairly bad at responding to all my reader comments, though I appreciate them very much. I do try to answer whenever a direct question is asked, though, although it sometimes takes me several days to get around to it. Today I got a comment/question that I felt was a meaty enough topic to do an entire post on, since I've had similar comments from other readers. Here is bekster's comment:

"I love the idea of hats and would probably wear them more often except that I lack the courage (at this point) to stand out. On that subject, since I started lurking a few weeks ago (hello!), I have been meaning to ask you... Have you always been creative with clothes, or was there a point when you just decided that “ordinary” was not good enough and you didn’t care what others thought? I want to use my clothes as an outlet for creativity, but since I don’t usually have occasion to“dress up,” I am afraid that I would shock my friends (in a negative way). Is there a way to ease into more interesting clothes so that others get used to the idea, or am I just a coward and need to plunge into it without worry for what others think? By the way, your blog is lovely, and I agree about hats. I just think the problem is more psychological than physical."

First of all, thanks for commenting, bekster. I always like seeing new readers stopping by, and I'm glad you enjoy the blog. I'll start with my own experiences. I started playing around with style way back in the 80's, and have sported an awful lot of envelope-pushing looks that make me cringe now. Thinking back over some of those styles, I would say my current one is fairly tame by comparison. During the 90's I wore far more boxy t-shirts and figure-hiding sweaters than I care to admit, but by 2000 or so I decided I was ready to start putting more effort into my wardrobe again. I feel like my current style has had a long evolution and is one that has staying power.

I'm not sure I've ever approached style with the notion that ordinary wasn't good enough. Over the years I guess I've just learned to embrace standing out with what I wear, because it's so much better than not being noticed. I wouldn't say that I don't care what others think, either; quite the opposite in fact. But what I've learned is that you will never please everyone with the way you dress, so it's far better to dress for yourself and attract the sort of people whose opinions you care the most about. What do I care if some stuffy, unimaginative person doesn't like my clothes? It's the interesting, creative people I really want to hang around with, and they are generally the ones who like the way I dress. If you always dress for yourself, and to express yourself, then the people who gravitate to you will be the ones who really get you.

On to the question of your style. First of all, I doubt very much that your friends would react negatively if you added some flair to your wardrobe. Friends generally love seeing their friends happy, and I can tell you from experience that looking good is a great way to improve the way you feel. So I think the only barrier to dressing the way you want is you. That said, I'm not sure I'd advise a 'plunging in' approach either. You will need to allow your style some time to evolve, and once you start experimenting there are probably going to be a few looks that don't stick. It's better to find out what you like and don't like before you've invested in a pile of clothes you never wear. Start simply; try a few interesting accessories like scarves or belts. When you buy new pieces of clothing, look for ones that are really unique and of good quality and fit. Those are the pieces that can transcend fads and be worn in different ways as your style evolves. Find the pieces that are really and truly you, and that appeal to your asthetic alone. Trying to dress for anyone else is pointless; for one thing you can almost never predict what somebody else is going to like or dislike, and for another thing isn't it better to have people see the real you?

I'd highly encourage you to give it a try. You certainly don't need to dress 'up' to dress creatively, so don't wait for an occasion! You should dress to feel good about yourself every single day. And if it shocks people at first, so what? How bad is it, really, to have someone gasp and say, "Wow, you look GREAT!"? Trust me, you'll get used to it.

Lab Wear

With a day of fairly physical lab work ahead of me, I needed an outfit that met several important requirements: warm but not too warm, easy to move around in, not too bulky to wear under a lab coat, and most of all, comfortable. This outfit worked out very well.

These skinny jeans can be tough to wear with shorter tops because the low-rise waist always feels like it's revealing a little too much of my bum. Wearing them with this minidress was perfect for allowing lots of movement without worrying about sudden crack exposure. The long sleeved t-shirt layered underneath was just warm enough, and provided some much-needed coverage under the very low cut minidress. The dress is definitely not work-appropriate without something layered under or over it. The hat was thrown on in desperation when it became obvious that my hair was just not going to cooperate.

Hat: San Diego Hat Company
Shirt, dress: thrifted
Vest: Promod
Jeans: Joe's
Shoes: John Fluevog

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Give Hats a Chance

I'm going to make a claim that I know a lot of people are going to disagree with, but here goes: anyone can look great in a hat. Yep, I know there are many naysayers out there who claim that they can't wear them, but just hear me out. There are really only two things standing between you and the perfect chapeau; one is that the selection of styles in many places is woefully sparse, and the other is that you probably don't really understand what works for the shape of your face.

If you haven't done so already, I highly suggest that you figure out what shape your face is. This will give you a lot of clues as to which styles will work and which won't. For instance if your face is rectangular or oblong, you'll need to stay away from styles with a high crown and go for those with a low crown and straight, wider brims; if your face is square then you should avoid cloche-type hats that are worn pulled down low, and look for styles worn back and away from the face, such as a pillbox.

As for the problem of selection, that's a tougher one to deal with. Many stores only carry a handful of standard shapes, and if none of those happen to suit you then I can see how you'd write off hats altogether. Adding to the dilemma is that a lot of vintage hats were made in sizes considerably smaller than the average modern head, which means that many of those great second hand finds won't fit. More and more though, I'm starting to see a wider variety of hats creep into circulation, so perhaps it's time to give them another chance.

My strategy in learning which styles look good on me has been to scour hat shops whenever I come across them and try on as many styles as I can. Over the last few years of doing this I've learned that styles with narrower brims are better for my face, and that they often look better tilted to one side or even worn sideways. A couple of times I've removed the trimming and reattached it so that I could wear the hat turned 90 degrees from the way it was intended. The purple peacock feather hat I made at my recent millinery class is in fact trimmed for a sideways orientation. My point is that you should be creative and try out each hat in different positions on your head before deciding it doesn't work. Tilt it forward, push it back, flop it over to one side, spin it around; a hat is not "supposed" to be worn in any particular way except the one that suits YOU.

I'm nearly finished, but I'll just go out on a limb and make one more radical claim: if you're going to own only one hat that isn't something completely utilitarian like a knit beanie, make it a black beret. A simple beret has so many applications and looks good on pretty much everybody. Again, don't write them off simply because you've been faced with a limited selection; there are a multitude of different variations on the beret if you just keep an eye out for them. Some are as wide as a dinner plate and flop over to one side; others are tiny and perch high up on the head. Some are made of soft knit fabrics that drape down flat, others are made of stiff felt that holds a more structured shape. Whatver the variation, a black beret is classic, timeless, and chic. Of the 30+ hats I own, this is my most frequently-worn, for looks both casual and dressy.

Hat: From ADS in San Francisco
Dress and belt: The Red Dress Shoppe
Scarf: A gift from my sister
Cardi (worn under the dress): A cast-off from my sister
Leggings: American Apparel
Boots: MIA

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Last Minute Additions

As I was just about ready to leave for work yesterday morning, I noticed that this was yet another black and blue outfit, so I decided to throw in a little red to change it up. First I added the hat, and then it occurred to me to top it off with my adorable red jacket that I don't wear nearly enough. I think the last minute additions were what ended up being the most interesting elements of the outfit.

Hat: ??
Tie-neck sweater: Banana Republic
Waistcoat: Last Kiss
Denim skirt: La Redoute
Tights: Noa Noa
Shoes: John Fluevog
Coat: Tulle

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Parties

Mark is finally making an appearance on my blog today. On Saturday we had a 'pre-party' gathering and 2 holiday parties to go to; one for my work and one thrown by some friends of Mark's. These were our outfits for the evening's festivities.

I found this dress in a little shop in the Marais district of Paris. The wrap part is removable, but I think it looks cuter with it on. The wrap is made of boiled wool, as is the back panel of the skirt. It's a very unusual design, and I'm happy I finally got to wear it. Because the dress is dark brown with thin black stripes in the pattern, it goes really well with these ecru-trimmed black boots by John Fluevog. Mark's outfit features this fantastic vest we found at a store in the Haight called Ceiba. His shoes are also by John Fluevog.

Both of our hats are my own creations. In fact, I whipped up Mark's derby hat on Friday night, and trimmed it on Saturday morning. Mine was made during my recent millinery workshop, although since that time I redid the trimming on it. The hats got a lot of attention at all the parties we attended.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Girls' Night Out

I have to admit that I'm slightly hungover today. Last night was Girls' Night Out with my best friend Laura, and we unwisely decided to end the evening with martinis instead of sticking to beer. Just to give you an idea of the level of silliness we attained, we concluded the evening by deciding that we need to have a roller skating Richard Nixon at our big 40th birthday bash next year. I'm certain I'll never be able to mentally retrace, now that I'm sober, the steps we took to reach that conclusion.

Generally when I'm not feeling my best I wear something extra special, so that at the very least I'll feel good about the way I look. This little vintage jacket certainly fits in the extra special category, as does my favorite new dress and these adorable boots that were a gift from Mark. None of these items prevented me from yawning my way through several meetings this afternoon, but I did feel very stylish while walking to them, at least.

Jacket: Vintage, from Paris
Dress and tights: Noa Noa
Shoes: MIA

Tulle Skirt

This is the first time I've worn this tulle skirt as a skirt rather than as a petticoat. Generally it's only to be seen peeking out from under the hem of another skirt, since the top half of it is actually sheer. However, this boiled wool tunic is long enough that I was able to wear the tulle without needing another layer. The tulle is really soft and drapey, not stiff and scratchy like a typical crinoline petticoat. I like the combination of the top and bottom halves of this outfit; the bottom is very feminine and traditional, while the top has more of a modern, urban flair.

These shoes weren't quite so torturous yesterday as they were the last time I wore them. I hope this means they'll continue to improve, although the fact that it took me nearly 5 months to wear them again speaks volumes about just how uncomfortable they were. They really are pretty, though.

Striped shirt: Forever 21, thrifted
Tunic: Promod
Hat: Monsoon
Skirt: Noa Noa
Shoes: Modern Vintage

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Lucky Inspiration

I saw an outfit similar to this one in the latest issue of Lucky magazine. Although the Lucky version wasn't quite as interesting or as colorful, I thought it was a good way to make use of a sheer floaty top during the winter months.

Scarf: H&M
Floral top: Forever 21
Turtleneck: H&M
Belt: DIY
Jeans: Joe's
Boots: Bata

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


One last post of the night and I'll be all caught up through today's outfit. I knew I was going to be sitting for many hours today at an all-day meeting, so I wore something I knew would be comfortable. All the elements here really fit the bill: the skirt is the right length for sitting without having to keep adjusting it with every crossing and uncrossing of the legs; the top is soft and its double-layer of knit fabric makes it extra warm; and the boots are cozy and very well broken in. The splashes of brown and gray add a little variety to what is otherwise a monochrome outfit (I also wore this with my purple leather jacket, which is not shown here).

Top: Just Angels
Scarf: H&M
Purple corduroy skirt: H&M
Tights: Noa Noa
Boots: Bata

Black and Blue

Here's Georgie again, making an appearance to add a little variety to my blog photos. I have to apologize for her unladylike pose; she hasn't been trained in the finer points of etiquette.

This outfit features a skirt worn as a dress worn as a skirt. The original garment is an ankle-length skirt, hiked all the way up and worn as a strapless dress, and then covered up to wear as a knee-length skirt. The belt keeps everything in place, since the skirt doesn't have any elastic at the waist to keep it from slipping.

Mixing navy and black can be tricky to do, and the key to making it work is to really mix everything up rather than wearing blue on the top and black on the bottom, or vice versa. Here I used a very dark navy scarf to mix up the top half of the outfit, while the tights have both black and navy to bring it all together. Imagine how dull the outfit would look with plain black tights and no scarf.

This color combo is the perfect starting point to explore pattern mixing if you've been hesitant to give it a whirl; if you stick to just the two colors you really can't go wrong with whatever patterns you try. The combination of two dark colors really requires some contrast to make the pairing look intentional. And since the color scheme is so simple, the patterns almost can't clash no matter how adventurous you get.

Scarf: Banana Republic (?)
Skirt/Dress/Skirt: Ralph Lauren
Sweater: Anne Taylor
Belt: The Red Dress Shoppe
Boots: Doc Marten


Ironically, Kasmira posted yesterday about the mod look, and I'd completely forgotten that I wore the very look she described last Friday but had not yet posted it. So here it is, my cheeky and very mod Friday outfit from last week. This is the sort of outfit I always seem to save for a Friday, for some reason.

This little vintage reproduction dress is nipped in just a touch at the waist for a sleeker look than a lot of the boxier 1960's dresses were. It is also still available from the Red Dress Shoppe on sale for $29! The leather jacket modernizes the look a little but is still in keeping with the straight lines of the mod style.

Turtleneck: La Redoute
Leggings: American Apparel
Boots: Modern Vintage
Jacket: Zadig & Voltaire

Friday, December 5, 2008

Intemperance Day

Today is what I like to call Intemperance Day, and it is my favorite day-that-ought-to-be-a-holiday. On this day in 1933, prohibition was repealed with the ratification of the 21st Amendment. So happy Intemperance Day everyone, and cheers!

Dear Santa...

Would it be too much to ask for these little beauties in a size 39? I promise I'll be very, very good for what's left of the year.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Handknit Socks

I love pretty socks. I love to knit. Ergo, I should love to knit myself pretty socks, right? Well, that's not such an easy question to answer. On the one hand socks are challenging and fun to make. On the other hand they end up costing twice as much as buying a pair and taking an inordinate amount of time to finish. And then there's that less tangible factor, the disappointment you feel when not one single person even notices them because hey, what's the big deal about a pair of socks, anyway?

The problem with making intricate socks is that only another knitter can truly appreciate how much effort went into them. Sure, there's a certain satisfaction in knowing that I made them myself, but when I think about all the time I spent, I always wind up thinking I'd have been better off making a really eye-catching sweater or hat. Thus, I haven't knit any more socks since I finished this pair. Now I'm not saying I'll never knit any more socks, but I think the next ones will either be a far simpler pattern or else a big, chunky, quickly finished pair that can be used as slippers. These days, however, I'm working on a really lovely and eye-catching sweater. More on that to come.

Socks: Knit by me from the Baudelaire pattern

Dress: Tulle
Skirt: Noa Noa
Cardi: La Redoute
Belt: Made by Mark and I
Hat: Seeberger
Boots: Bata

Wild Meets Mild

Leopard with argyle? Why not, I say! I love the idea of the sexy animal print paired with a classic nerd pattern. The turtleneck was added as an afterthought because it was really cold yesterday morning.

Turtleneck: H&M
Leopard top: Forever 21
Argyle vest: A. Byer
Cords: Marlowe
Shoes: Born

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pants For Icelanders

I realized today that I haven't really discussed my recent trip to Paris and Iceland very much, and I hope to correct that very soon. Part of the problem is that my old computer didn't have enough available memory for me to upload all my digital photos, so I've been waiting until I figured out the new system before I dealt with trying to post any of those. I still can't quite decide which program I want to use for them.

In the meantime, let your imagination carry you to the fashion of downtown Reykjavik on a Friday or Saturday night. It shouldn't be hard, because very little is actually left to the imagination. First imagine, if you will, that I was wearing this black tunic top as a dress. Now pretend that instead of thick leggings, I had on semi-opaque tights. Finally, picture approximately 70% of women in their 20's to early 30's dressed that way, and you'll have a good idea of the fashion catastrophe that is Reykjavik right now. I realize that the country is in the midst of a terrible financial crisis, but I had no idea that the situation was so dire: there is apparently a massive shortage of pants among young Icelandic women! The whole city looks like an installment of Don't Show-Cha Your Chocha! I'm thinking of starting up a humanitarian effort called Pants For Icelanders -- who's with me?

I'm not really exaggerating very much here. I saw a lot of cheeks that frankly I wish I could unsee. So to all the Icelanders out there; please, I adore your country and I think you're beautiful and interesting people, but for God's sake put some pants on!!!

Shirt (which is not a dress): H&M
Dress (See how I wore it under the shirt there? It's easy, really.): Lady Language
Leggings: Kersh
Boots: Doc Marten
Hat: San Diego Hat Company

Monday, December 1, 2008


Oh, the irony of this outfit. I felt so Susie Homemaker in this little gingham apron, and yet that couldn't be less like my personality. My disdain for household chores has in fact reached epic proportions in recent months, prompting among other things the hiring of a weekly housekeeper to do everything from washing my dishes to changing my sheets. I don't really even cook, if I can avoid it. I strive to be a true woman of leisure, but somehow my job keeps getting in the way.

I found this apron at a vintage store over the weekend. I'm not sure if it's really vintage, but it is most definitely handmade. I immediately liked the idea of transforming the look of a skirt or dress with it, but it was my love of the color orange that really sealed the deal. Since I don't often pair orange and green, this opened up a whole new range of possibilities for me. I have to admit that I was also hoping to catch my work colleagues off guard with it, but I think I've finally lost my ability to surprise them with what I wear.

Cardigan: E-klah
Shirt: H&M
Scarf: from a local import store
Skirt: Noa Noa
Socks: Sock Dreams
Shoes: John Fluevog

As a bonus today, I thought I'd include a picture of one of Georgie's recent outfits. This is actually from last week when it was rainy and cold; we were headed over to Mark's place, so Georgie wore her raincoat and backpack. Like many pit mixes Georgie has a lot of energy, so I sometimes weigh down this pack with books or other heavy things to give her an extra workout when we walk. I'd like to think that it burns off some of that energy, but I suspect that the only energy burned off during our outings is my own.