Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Hat Says it All

This is actually quite an old picture of Georgie, but it always makes me smile when I see it, and it's certainly appropriate for the occasion. Wishing you a delightful New Year's Eve and a restful day after. I'm still in Mexico, but I'll be back and posting more next week!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Shades of Purple

It was fun to put this outfit together if for no other reason than to see how many different shades of purple I could get in there. The jacket, the sweater, the tank top, the tulle skirt, and the shoes are all slightly different shades, which I think made this outfit really interesting despite the fact that the palette is limited to just two main colors.

This olive skirt transitioned easily into wintertime with the addition of the tulle skirt underneath. Though the overall length of the olive skirt is long, it opens quite far in the front and would be way too cold to wear without a layer underneath. The tulle was the perfect length and added a textural element, and then what could possibly be better than ruffles plus tulle??

The featured outerwear today is the beautiful leather jacket I brought home from Paris last year (I told you I buy a lot of coats when I travel!). It's lined with a dense padded lining topped with a layer of silk, making it far warmer than a typical leather jacket.

Jacket: Zadig & Voltaire
Sweater: Free People
Tank: Rapsodia
Scarf: Duke et Duchesse
Belt: Oscar de la Renta
Olive skirt: Heathen
Tulle skirt: Noa Noa
Boots: Eject

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Looks Like a Vest

I snuck that waist cincher corset of mine into work another outfit, and as expected not one person noticed. To be fair, I suppose it does sort of look like a vest when the jacket is layered over it. I wore the jacket all day, so no one was ever the wiser. I liked how the pinstripes in the jacket play nicely against the piping on the corset.

I've been wearing so much brown and black lately that I decided to throw in these orange argyle tights just to get some color in there. I thought the shoes were a good way to bring a little splash of lighter color into the bottom half of the outfit.

Jacket: thrifted
Top: H&M
Corset: Xcentricities
Skirt: from my sister
Tights: Sock Dreams
Shoes: Art Shoes

Monday, December 28, 2009


I just loved all the drape, texture, and 3-dimensionality of this outfit: the sheer batwing top, the chains and studded boots, the hint of tulle peeking out at the hemline, and of course the fantastic ruffles and shaping on this dress. This is definitely an outfit I'll use again, either for an evening outfit or in a slightly different configuration at work. The featured outerwear here is a boiled wool shawl-collar coat that I picked up in Riga a couple years ago. It's soft and drapey and basically feels like a giant sweater. It's really idea for the San Francisco climate because it's warm without being too bulky, which means I can wear it over other layers while still looking tailored.

It occurs to me that I've bought a lot of coats in my travels -- perhaps that just means that I don't pack enough warm clothes. Some might call that poor planning; I prefer to think of it as optimism.

I tend to wear this batwing top belted, because otherwise it just makes me look large and shapeless, especially over a full skirt like this one. The elastic belt keeps the excess fabric in place and still allows the top to have the unstructured, flowing look that made me like it in the first place. I like the way the keyhole back reveals part of the pattern on the dress.

Coat: Promod
Dress: All Saints
Top: Sisley
Skirt: Glam Garb by Gunlis
Tights: MP
Boots: All Black

Friday, December 25, 2009

Have Yourself a Beery Little Christmas

Hola and Feliz Navidad from the sunny beaches of Mexico! I've got some more posts lined up for while I'm away, but I apologize in advance for falling behind on my reading and commenting. I hope you're enjoying a fabulous and fashionable holiday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Drop Waist

This is what happens when I let my outfit posts get ridiculously out of order -- I end up with the same garment appearing within just a few days of the last time it showed up. The horror! Actually, it's okay, because perhaps this will prove to Mark's dad that I actually don't throw my clothes away after a single use. Though he's a brilliant astronomer, he is apparently completely bewildered by my wardrobe, since I appear to never wear the same thing twice. Harry, I assure you that neither does my closet defy the laws of physics, nor do I throw my clothes away after one wear. Behold, here's the same shirt I posted last week! But since you're a scientist and may require additional data before you're convinced, I submit for your consideration this further photographic evidence:

I've worn this shirt many times, in fact, and in a number of different ways. It struck me while looking at these photos that it has yet to appear without something layered over it; this is really due to the shirt itself. Because of the long length and vertical stripes, it elongates my already long torso. And as I've mentioned many times before, I don't really like tucking shirts in. Thus, a contrasting layer on top lessens the impact of that long line of stripes and brings my body back into proportion without having to jam all that excess shirt length into my skirt or pants.

Today's featured outerwear is this brown drop waist wool coat that I bought in Venice several years ago. This coat is one of the few drop waist items I own, another being the tunic shown above. I find that it generally isn't a very flattering shape for my figure, managing to magically hide all my best features while simultaneously highlighting the worst ones. But I think with both these items it's the shaping, the asymmetry, and the dense, structured fabrics that make this hard-to-wear shape work.

Tunic: Promod
Shirt: Promod
Skirt: F21
Tights: MP
Shoes: Born
Coat: some shop in Venice

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Weekend Casual

Several readers have inquired about my weekend/after work outfits, so I thought I'd show you a few of them in one post. As I hope to convince you, dressing down needn't mean dressing slovenly. Though many of my casual outfits are built around jeans and comfy shoes, they also tend to include the same sorts of accessories, color combinations, and other details that make my work wear interesting and uniquely me. They also generally look neat and fitted, with plenty of the layering strategies you're used to seeing from me. Shown above is a typical outfit that I'd throw on after work when I'm heading over to Mark's place or going to meet friends for a casual evening out. Starting with a pair of jeans and a comfy, long tunic, I added a hat and scarf for some visual interest, layered on armwarmers and a cropped hoodie for warmth, and chose a funky but functional pair of shoes to complete the look.

Hat: San Diego Hat Co. -- Scarf: Banana Republic -- Tunic: H&M -- Hoodie: Kersh -- Arm Warmers: Sock Dreams -- Jeans: Acne -- Shoes: 21 Sport

This outfit is really basic, being built around jeans and a sweater. But with this one I've brought in a little color with the purple sweater and boots, as well as adding some sparkle with the sequined scarf. An outfit like this is a great way to throw on something in a hurry that's easy, comfy, and still looks put together. Because the sweater is a loose, lacy knit, it adds a bit of sheer texture to the outfit.

I very frequently add scarves to my casual outfits to boost the style. To me they add an element of sophistication without looking too fussy.

Sweater: Free People
Scarf: Urban Outfitters
Jeans: Acne
Shoes: Cydwoq

Here's an even more relaxed look, with faded jeans and sneakers this time. But rather than wearing a plain t-shirt I chose this soft drapey cowl neck shirt instead, which adds a bit of visual interest at the neckline. The other thing I did here was to use several different shades of purple, creating richness and depth. Since I usually don't bother with a lot of jewelery on the weekends, I use layers of color to make my outfits more interesting. Between the soft cowl, the chunky sweater, the jeans and the sneakers, I definitely look comfortable here, but the outfit still gives the impression of being carefully put together.

Cowl: thrifted
Sweater: BB Dakota
Jeans: Lucky Brand
Sneakers: Simple

Finally, here are some outfits you've seen before that I've either transitioned directly from work to an evening out, or worn out on an evening or weekend and then decided to turn into a work outfit later. Notice that all of these outfits are comprised of comfortable pieces, good walking shoes, and not too many layers that require frequent adjusting. That's because when I go out, I usually walk to wherever I'm going and don't often stay in one place the whole time; thus, comfort and ease are key. Boots are my most frequently worn after-hours shoe because they don't slip around or otherwise bother my feet even on steep hills, and I try to avoid tight-fitting belts when I go out because bar stools and restaurant chairs rarely keep my posture as straight as my office chair does, which means that anything squeezing my middle is going to be digging in by the end of the night.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Company Holiday Party

Last weekend was my company holiday party, so I figured I'd better come up with something that would really top my usual flamboyant daily wear. It turned out to be a great excuse to wear my gorgeous Dark Garden corset, which I've owned for about 2 years but sadly have not worn until now. It worked so beautifully over this tulle skirted dress that the two look like they're one piece. The dress is one I bought at a small boutique in Copenhagen a few years ago; I've actually worn it to the company holiday party before, so this was the perfect way to wear it again but make it look different (not that anyone other than me would remember what dress I wore 2 years ago!).

The hat, of course, is one of my own designs. This is a new take on my Bettie mini topper style; it's about half an inch taller and about an inch larger in circumference than the other ones I've made. I was wanting a slightly larger hat that I could style sort of in the vein of Joanie Stubbs' top hat on Deadwood. This is a dressier version than hers, but I like the new style and will be playing around with it more and potentially offering it in the shop. In order to create this hat, I needed a custom-made wooden extension for my existing hat block, which Mark kindly created for me. It entailed lots of sawing and sanding, which naturally meant a lot of sawdust, not to mention the noise. Who knew that millinery was such a messy business?

For this event I curled my hair using foam curlers that I put in when my hair was damp, thus avoiding a repeat of the forehead-burning I sustained when I curled my hair for the Seattle blog meet-up. I found that the curls lasted a lot longer this way and came out softer and smoother.

I only bought one new item to compete this outfit, and that was this pair of long black leather gloves. I've seen a lot of these long gloves this season, and had been wanting a pair. I found these for 50% off at and decided they'd be the perfect way to keep my hands and arms warm while still looking dressed up. I ended up wearing them for much of the night, and they worked really well for keeping my fingers warm while holding onto an ice cold drink.

No special occasion post would be complete without a picture of Mark and I. This shot was sort of rushed, since we were trying to get out the door by that time. Mark wore a beautiful thrifted tuxedo jacket with his dark wash Heathen jeans. I thought this was a great modern take on a classic look. His vest is a thrifted one that he embellished himself to steampunk it up a little, and the bowler hat is one I made.

My outfit:
Dress: ?? from a boutique in Copenhagen
Corset: Dark Garden
Necklace: Manu Lizzaralde
Tights: Biella
Shoes: Steve Madden
Gloves: Alfani

Friday, December 18, 2009


Today's post has nothing at all to do with fashion, unless you count the subject's ability to stain your clothing. It does have to do with booze and lighting things on fire though, which may perhaps interest you. This post is about a little-known (in the US, anyway) German beverage called Feuerzangenbowle. And today I'm going to tell you how to make it, because it's a drink that's just perfect for this time of year. I'll start by describing the whole process and then I'll give the list of ingredients and quantities at the end.

Feuerzangenbowle is sort of like a mulled red wine, and starts out pretty much the same way, with red wine being steeped with spices and citrus fruit. But because of the way it's prepared, this drink is well-suited for a large party with friends, firstly because of the large quantity that the recipe makes, and secondly because the fire is pretty damn impressive. What's shown in the photo above is the final preparation step, which involves soaking a dense cone of sugar, called a Zuckerhut, in Bacardi 151 and lighting it on fire over the heated wine mixture. The idea is to carmelize and melt the suger, which drips into the wine through a long slot in the bottom of that metal tray.

My love of Feuerzangenbowle started years and years ago when a friend introduced me to it after spending some time doing an intership in Stuttgart, Germany. I used to have one of the metal trays, called the feuerzangen, but lost it to my ex; for years I've looked for a replacement, and finally found an entire set, which is sort of like a fondue set with an alcohol burner underneath. I special ordered it from Germany with the help of the delightful Erika at German Specialty Imports in Prior Lake, MN, and last weekend I gave it its first trial run. You really don't need a lot of fancy equipment to make this drink, but you've gotta love that gorgeous German engineering, which I assure you is a vision in all its gleaming stainless steel glory. If you can't get your hands on a proper feuerzangen, you can try using a large, slotted metal spoon or something similar. It's fairly important to rig up a system that you won't have to hold onto though, because the sugar takes a good 15 minutes to burn, and then of course there's the little matter of it being on fire.

Besides the feuerzangen (or your reasonably MacGyver'd-up substitute), the other unique thing you'll need for this recipe is a Zuckerhut, which can be found at German delis or import stores. Alternately, you can use a whole pile of sugarcubes, about 250 grams' worth of 'em, to be precise. Having made it both ways, I can tell you that although the sugar cubes work just fine, the zuckerhut is a lot easier to work with.

To get started, you'll first need to steep the spices (cinnamon, cloves, and optionally cardamom) and the citrus (oranges and lemons, both the juice and part of the peels), with the wine (choose a dry red wine). To do this you can either mix everything together and leave it in the fridge overnight, or alternately you can heat the mixture until the wine is steaming (not boiling!), and let it steep for 15 minutes or so. For my test run I tried the second method, and it worked great.

Once the wine mixture is ready, it's time to prepare the sugar and rum. When using a zuckerhut, I like to place it in a small container, pour Bacardi 151 over it until no more absorbs, and then let it soak for several minutes, because I find that more of the rum soaks in and the sugar will burn longer without additional maintenance (which I'll discuss shortly). If you're using sugarcubes you can still use this approach, just don't let them soak long enough that the sugar dissolves.

Now, remove all the spices and peels from the wine, and heat the wine in a metal pot it until it's steaming. Position the feuerzangen above the pot of wine, place the rum-soaked sugar in the feuerzangen, stand back, and light it. The sugar makes a beautiful blue flame as it burns (it's even prettier with the lights off), and the dripping caramelized sugar makes a satisfying sizzling sound as it hits the wine.

As the sugar burns down, two things can eventually happen: the flame can go out, or the sugar can start to burn and blacken. To prevent this, you will need to periodically douse the sugar with more rum. This is where the real pyrotechnics get going, because when you add more rum, the flame will shoot up about a foot and a half or more. Obviously, it's important to have a steady hand and nerves of steel. It's also EXTREMELY important not to pour the rum directly from the bottle. Have you ever heard of a Molotov Cocktail? Well, I'm almost 100% sure you don't want one to go off in your house, and putting an open flame near the mouth of a bottle of high proof liquor is, in essence, the same thing.

Instead, pour a small amount, maybe 2-3 tablespoons, of liquor into a metal ladle or large spoon, and carefully but quickly and smoothly pour it over the sugar. You'll need to brace yourself for the flame, but don't chicken out! -- just pour it right over the sugar, pull the spoon back slowly, and if necessary, blow out the now flaming spoon. Easy! If it's your first time making it, and depending on how adept you are with handling fire, having someone else standing by with a fire extinguisher might not be a bad idea. It's also a good idea to make sure you don't have a lot of loose clothing on that could get in the way of the flame.

Once the sugar is all melted, the feuerzangenbowle is ready to serve. I like to use regular old coffee mugs, since the drink will be piping hot. My favorite part is the initial sensation as you raise the mug to your lips; you're hit with a strong citrus smell, and the fumes from the steaming hot, residual Bacardi sort of sting your nose as you take a sip. The sugar and spices nicely balance the dry wine, the drink being far less sweet than you might imagine, given the amount of sugar that goes into it.

With my recent test batch I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the feuerzangenbowle will keep for several days in the fridge, if for some reason you find yourself unable to consume 3 liters of alcohol in a single evening. I've never tried scaling the recipe down, as I've usually only made it for a group, though I found this photo on the left that suggests there are also single serving approaches. That doesn't sound nearly as fun though, or as delightfully dangerous. 

Feuerzangenbowle Recipe:
2 cinnamon sticks
7-8 cloves
2-3 cardamom pods
3 oranges (juice and a large slice of peel)
2 lemons (juice and a large slice of peel)
3 Liters dry red wine
2-3 cups Bacardi 151
1 zuckerhut, or 250g sugarcubes

large metal pan
long-handled metal spoon or ladle

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Yes You Can

As an avid hat enthusiast and milliner, I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I can't wear hats." Well, I'm here to tell you that yes, you can. Oh sure, there are those rare people out there; you know, the People Who Can't Wear Hats*. But I suspect that their relative numbers are roughly the same as the proportion of narcoleptics versus People Who Just Like to Sleep A Lot (I'll freely admit to being among the latter category). So if you're one of those People Who *Think* They Can't Wear Hats, why not pop over and check out the guest post I wrote for Already Pretty, and see if I can change your mind?

* I think we need to invent a word for these poor folks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

True F@#!ing Story

Today I'm doing something that deeply offends my Virgo sensibilities: I am posting an outfit out of chronological order; that is, I'm skipping over several days' worth of older outfits in order to bring you this one hot off the presses. And why is that, you ask? Well, it's all because of our favorite foulmouthed blogger and jewelery designer extraordinaire Wendy Brandes, who is responsible for these:

I never swear. I f@#!ing promise.

Yes, the glorious Wendy Brandes for Francis swear rings are mine at last! I coveted them for months, stalked them and obsessed over them, was haunted by them first on Kingdom of Style and then by Wendy herself, and finally broke down and bought them last week rather than waiting until after the holidays as I'd originally planned. And I have to say, I'm really fucking glad I did! Pretty much as soon as I put them on my hand and headed into my first meeting, someone promptly noticed all the flashing silver and started oohing and ahhing. Soon the whole team was admiring them. Yes, MY coworkers, noticing, and admiring, some seriously boundary-pushing jewelery. Go fucking figure!

Then after work, I stopped into my favorite stationary and card store to get a gift box, only to find out that the store no longer carries gift boxes of any kind. True fucking story! My response, of course, was this:

Where will I go now for all my gift box needs?

It was serendipity, I tell you. Serenfuckingdipity! So you see, I had to post this right away. Thanks Wendy; it was totally worth breaking my meticulous chronological ordering of the outfit posts for a timely showcase of your amazing creations. They garnered praise from my coworkers and gave me the perfect response to a frustrating situation, all within the span of a few hours.

I suppose I ought to tell you about the rest of my outfit too. Continuing in my ongoing outerwear feature, I'll start with the jacket. This one was selected because with the thick vest to keep me warm, all I really needed were the long sleeves. The cropped leather jacket was the perfect solution, plus, the detailing is cool enough to stand up to those fabulous rings.

Since I don't really like the feel of tucked in shirts, I used the fitted vest to give me waist definition and to balance out my proportions, which were a little off because of the length of the shirt. I also wore long socks over tights with this outfit, but the socks were only for warmth and were pulled all the way up rather than showing beneath the skirt -- and anyway, something about knee high socks with a pleated wool skirt just strikes me as waaay too schoolgirlish for a 40-year-old woman to be wearing. I just love all the socks-over-tights looks I've seen recently on Chelsea and Erin though, and I'm determined to put together one of my own.

These rings are already proving to be really handy at work. Shown here is
a remarkably easy way to say, "Get out of my office."
Shirt: Promod
Vest: Shawna Hoffman
Jacket: Skin Graft
Skirt: Banana Republic
Boots: Modern Vintage

Highly Functional

Today's featured outerwear is a coat you haven't seen before. It was custom made for me by designer Shawna Hoffman, who also made my fabulous convertible flight suit. This jacket also features Shawna's imaginative and highly functional approach to clothing design: the sleeves come off, and the two bottom tiers of the jacket can be removed for many different lengths and configurations. I originally saw this jacket at Ceiba Records on Haight Street, but it was in a size way too small for me. Assuming that several had been made, I asked about it over at Five and Diamond, but they told me that the one I saw was just a sample and the only one in existence, but that I could have one made to order. Months later, it was finally mine, and the fit is just perfect. There's also a leather version of this coat, but somehow I thought the dark denim was more unique. The back of the coat has corset-style laces, allowing the fit to be adjusted all over.

With this outfit I tried the long-socks-over-jeans-tucked-into-short-boots look again, this time blending the jeans, socks, and boots in a long unbroken line of indigo blue. On the top I layered a sheer floral over my All Saints mottled argyle tunic, and glammed up the whole thing with a sequined scarf. Overall the colors were dark, but the blend of patterns and texture kept the outfit rich and interesting.

Tunic: All Saints
Sheer top: Noa Noa
Belt, scarf: Urban Outfitters
Jeans: Joe's
Socks: Sock Dreams
Boots: Frye
Coat: Shawna Hoffman