One of my favorite bloggers, Elle of Fast Food and Fast Fashion, helped me out by picking up this dress for me at Forever 21 after I expressed interest in hers (the closest F21 is at least a 20 mile drive, so I usually order from their website, but this dress was not on there). It arrived last week, and I wore it today for the first time. I have to give Elle 100% total credit for this outfit, since she wore basically the exact same thing yesterday. I don’t have an aqua/turquoise belt, so I went without, but otherwise it’s the same outfit.
Yes, this is me doing the ubiquitous Smart Phone Camera in the Mirror shot. I finally got a Smart Phone in December, but every time I try to use it to take outfit pics, they come out crappy. Now that Daylight Savings time is here, there is reasonable natural sunlight for taking photos after work. But hopefully, I won’t have to resort to Smart Phone pics because the husband finally broke down and bought a remote for his DSLR over the weekend. Ideally I will set up the camera on the tripod and take photos every day, or at least when I have good outfit. I also need to take photos of my recent sewing projects (3 dresses completed for my Spring wardrobe, plus a backlog of stuff from the fall that needs to be documented).
As for this dress – I fell in love with the Kate Spade polka dot Jillian dress from Spring 2011, but even if I could afford Kate Spade clothes, they would never fit.
I tried to find polka dot fabric that was similar to the Kate Spade dress, but never really came up with anything that was the right size and color polka dots or the right drape. I had given up on trying to sew my own version of the dress, when I saw Elle had blogged about her Forever 21 dress. I decided that it was worth spending the $24.80 for the dress instead of trying to recreate the Kate Spade version.
Here’s the stock photo from Forever 21:
(You might notice that my photo links are from Pinterest. Yes, I am on there and feel free to follow me or whatever people do on Pinterest. I use it to collect images that inspire me for either putting together outfits or sewing new things).
Fortunately, the size Small from F21 fit reasonably well. The fabric is a lightweight polyester that feels like real silk, and the dress has a nice swingy flirty spring like feel to it. I did not have to hem it or take in the bodice, which I usually do with anything from Forever 21. My only complaint about this is that the waist seam is extremely high. Normally that is not a problem for me, but on this I feel like the dress hangs a bit awkwardly because the dress’s waist is sitting slightly higher than my waist. That seems strange, given that I am only 4’11″. Granted, I do have a “normal” length torso (not a petite length), so rarely do I have to worry about waist seams being too low on me. I can’t imagine how anyone over 5’2″ would manage to wear this dress unless she was literally all legs and no torso.
I have a list of about 5-6 dresses that I am planning to sew for spring/summer 2012. I managed to sew two of them on my vacation week (which sadly, ends today, and I could really use another week to get more sewing done). I did not get nearly as much sewing done this week because I realized that I don’t enjoy my days off if I sew the entire time. Sewing has this way of making the space time continuum virtually disappear for me, and hours will pass without me realizing it. I’ll sit down at the sewing machine at 10am and then the next thing I know, it’s 5pm and I feel like I lost a day. I mainly feel like this because I look at a sewing project and think “this should go together quickly, it’s only 8 steps” and I neglect to consider the fact that I will inevitably screw something up and have to redo something 3 or 4 times.
Anyhoo – I took Wednesday off from sewing after completing a dress that I started on Sunday and finished on Tuesday. I decided to do a little closet inventory analysis and use this as a method of streamlining things. I have mixed feelings about a pared down, streamlined closet. On the one hand, I think it’s a lot smarter economically, environmentally, and emotionally to have a few really nice, well made, well fitting items that I will wear repeatedly and that are not overly trendy or cheap. However, when I discovered fashion bloggers and stores like Ann Taylor and LOFT and designers like Kate Spade and Milly, I had this overwhelming urge to obtain as many different outfits and looks as possible. I have an almost Pavlovian response to slick advertising campaigns and beautiful fashion spreads on websites. I’ll see an outfit or look that catches my eye and I will immediately think “have to have it” and will start stalking the items, or stalking lower cost lookalikes, in an attempt to recreate the look. The problem here is that some of these looks are overly trendy and are worn maybe once or twice, them I am left with an item in my closet that never, ever gets worn again. I also fall prey to the “good enough” mentality, like last year when I wanted a pair of black knee high boots to wear and I ended up purchasing some Etienne Aigner 3″ heeled zip up boots that were really too big on my calves. It was an impulse purchase that I now regret, since I found my perfect pair of boots on sale at xmas time and wear those exclusively, and the Etienne Aigner boots sit untouched.
My closet inventory analysis is by no means complete or comprehensive, but I think I did a fairly good job with it. I started keeping an OOTD log back in September 2010, when I started teaching again after 2 years as a full time grad student. I documented what I wore to work (or out on the weekends) every day, including jewelry, legwear, and shoes. On Wednesday I sat down with that MS Word document, and then used it to create a basic Excel spreadsheet. I made columns – one for pants, one for skirts, one for dresses, etc, and then painstakingly searched the word document for an item – example: Banana Republic black cardigan – and counted how many times it appeared in the document, then logged that in the spreadsheet. Then I color coded the clothing lists, based on where I obtained them – Thrifted, eBay, Gift, Purchased New from Store, Sewn/DIY, and Old, for things that I had purchased before 2010 and thus I felt needed no justification for their existence. That category is of particular interest to me, because I see the clothes that I have owned and worn for upwards of a decade and it makes me analyze why they are still worn and how I can use their characteristics to influence future purchases.
After my analysis (which did not include shoes, jewelry, or scarves/accessories), I had a fairly honest assessment of how often I wear things. Some things get worn a lot – my beloved Banana Republic cardigans (duplicates of the same style in black, cream and lime green), all purchased at a thrift store or from eBay for $10 a piece, have been worn a combined total of 40 times since I bought them in November of 2011. My J.Crew Jackie cardigans (navy, purchased in spring of 2010, mustard purchased summer 2011, and fuchsia, purchased in December 2011) have been worn 22 times. (I tend to wear them less since they are lighter weight and do not cover my wrists, which means they are only really appropriate in warmer temps). I’ve worn skirts a total of 140 times since September of 2010, and pants (including jeans) a mere 54 times. Dresses were worn 88 times. Woven tops/blouses have been worn 65 times, and knit tops 51 times. Cardigan sweaters have been worn 136 times, and non cardigan sweaters 82 times.
After examining this closely, it becomes really obvious which items I need to get rid of. For instance – I seldom wear button up blouses. I just don’t find them comfortable, they don’t stay tucked in, and they rarely fit correctly. So I can’t justify keeping all of them, particularly the ones I have worn exactly once in the last year. I have several pairs of pants that I just don’t wear. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, I am hanging onto two velvet cocktail dresses that I purchased before the year 2000, despite the fact that I don’t think I have worn either of them since 2003.
I need to empty my closet. I need to make some easy decisions as well as some tough ones. I also don’t want to just haul everything to the thrift store, since a lot of these items are quite nice, have been worn once, and could probably be a lot more useful to someone else. I may try to photograph these items and offer them up in a blog sale and sell them off at $5/piece, just to give myself some extra cash to cover the inevitable expenses of what will most likely be future purchases.
Not that anyone is reading this at this point.
I have not touched this blog in a long time, but I think I am ready to get back to regular blogging. There was no one specific reason why I stopped, but my free time was spent elsewhere and I was focusing on other things. Our elderly cat was nearing the end of his life, and taking outfit photos seemed like a rather useless activity while we were trying to make this last few months of life with us comfortable. He was 17 and was diagnosed with GI lymphoma in May; he started to slowly deteriorate during the fall and his lymphoma finally spread in early February; we put him to sleep on February 16 and things have been sort of difficult since. He was actually my husband’s cat (we each had one of our own when we met). The husband adopted him as a kitten during his first year of living here in the States back in 1995, so he is not taking this loss lightly. He basically had the cat for his entire life spent here, and that makes up most of his adult life. As he keeps telling me – “the cat lived more years with me than anyone else except my mother”. But despite only spending the last 4.5 years with him, I was very attached and had not dealt with the loss of a pet in quite some time. So it’s been hard.
Some new developments – my sciatica has been bothering me off and on, so I stopped wearing heels. I am back to wearing Dansko/Sanita clogs to work every day, which makes my back, hip, and feet feel better but which makes for fairly boring outfits. I used to plan outfits around a pair of shoes. Now, well, not so much. I did splurge on 3 new pairs of Sanita clogs around xmas time, because I figured if I was going to only wear clogs, I might as well have some fun clogs.
I’ve been sewing steadily, and have added 3 new dresses to my closet, but have yet to photograph any of them. And for the first time, I started planning an actual seasonal wardrobe, complete with a plan of which patterns to make with which fabric. I decided to focus on a few colorways for spring 2012 – greens/blues are everywhere, so that takes up two dresses in my current lineup (with potential for one more). Then there is pink/orange, and I have some patterns and fabric lined up to cover those. Finally, I’ve got a hankering for some stuff in yellow and black, and I have fabric, but am still decided on patterns.
In terms of patterns, I am going primarily in a vintage 60s direction (like that is different from any other direction I have ever gone in). I finally (FINALLY!) started watching Mad Men, and I truly love the show. But quite honestly, I love the characters, the acting, the writing, the cinematography, and the overall production quality of the show more than I love the clothes. Oh sure – I do love the clothes, but I find the show’s treatment of certain components of life in mid century America fascinating. My mom graduated from high school in 1962 and was married by the end of the year. My brother was born on November 30, 1963. I just finished season 3 of Mad Men and I had never really given much thought to the Kennedy assassination – what it was like, the impact on average Americans. Anyway, when they mentioned the date, I realized that my mom was 19 years old and in the last week of her first pregnancy when Kennedy was shot. I asked her what it was like, and she said she spent the entire week watching TV. As she put it “well, he was shot on a Friday, then Oswald was shot on live TV on the Sunday, and the funeral was on Monday, then I was in the hospital on Friday to have your brother.”
I feel like I should ask my mom more about life in the 50s and 60s. I know that because she was married with a young child, she basically missed Beatlemania and the whole Mod movement. I never really paid much attention to old photos of when my brother and sister (born in ’67) were young. I have had conversations with my mom about certain sewing patterns, and how I currently own several that she made over 35 years ago.
Which leads me to my latest project – the dress has a definite Mad Men style, as the pattern is from 1963, but the print is more Mod than classic early Kennedy era 1960s. I don’t have any dress pics yet as it is only halfway done, but here’s the pattern and the chosen fabric.
The dress pattern is a size 8 junior petite – 31.5″ bust, 22″ waist, 32″ hips, specially sized for petites 5’1″ and under. This meant that I did not have to make any major modifications to the pattern. Normally I have to take a significant amount of width out of a pattern, even with the smallest available size. I also have to slim the hips quite a bit. With this pattern, I had to add in some width at the waist since I do not have a 22″ waist. I also am using a 1/4″ seam allowance on the bodice because the original pattern fit with no ease, and since I don’t wear the type of undergarments worn by women in the 1960s, I needed something with a little more breathing room. Then of course there is the issue of my ginormous rib cage, which only makes fitting patterns more difficult since I am wider at the rib cage than I am at the bust.
The bodice is currently sewn together with lining and facing. Tomorrow I will tackle the skirt, and with any luck this will be done and ready to photograph.
I have to admit that I am not a huge football fan, but I do love the New England sports teams and I like to see them do well. My sister bought this sweater for the Super Bowl in 1986, when the Patriots lost. She handed it down to me about 5 years later and I have worn this thing whenever the Pats make the playoffs. I usually just wear it on game day with leggings – which is how I am wearing it here. However, I think I want to try and wear it to work one day this week. The thing is, this week is Mid Year exams, so I only have students for 90 minutes in the morning, then they go home and we sit around and grade stuff. I also have to attend a workshop off site on Wednesday, and then on Friday we have no students for a district workshop – so it’s either Monday or Tuesday or Thursday for me to wear it, and it seems to make the most sense to wear it the day after the Pats won.
It’s too short to wear with leggings for work, but I think I can swing a denim mini and some black tights with it. And maybe my red clogs.
I haven’t blogged in forever because I have been spending more time trying to get back into shape for cycling and addressing some chronic injuries. I have been doing a lot of yoga and other strengthening fitness classes, in addition to riding my bike, so I have less time for outfit pics. By the time I have any opportunity to take photos, I have already worked out and showered and eaten dinner and am ready for bed, or TV. I am going to see if I can maybe shoot a bunch of pics one day per week (weekend, most likely) and stock pile them.
This pic was taken quickly with the phone – Galaxy Samsung Nexus, my first smart phone.
Lately I find myself craving a pair of classic Bass Weejuns penny loafers. I had a pair when I was in the 8th grade. Growing up, we did not have a lot of money, and my parents resisted spending money on unnecessary things like expensive shoes or clothes. Every year I was provided with one trip to Filene’s Basement in Downtown Crossing, Boston, to purchase clothing for the upcoming school year. We shopped at Filenes because my parents had a Filenes card, and my parents were (and still are) horrible at managing money and thought that buying thing son credit was a good idea. The upside of this was that I was able to easily convince them to purchase things from brands like Guess and Esprit because it was all on credit. The downside was that if it wasn’t available at Filene’s, I couldn’t have it.
As it so happens, there was a Bass shoe outlet a few towns over from where I grew up. I grew up in the ass end of nowhere in New Hampshire, but there were a few random shoe outlets scattered around that attracted tourists who visited the area of the lakes in the summer and the skiing in the winter and the leaf peeping in the fall. A giant Tanger outlet mall now exists only miles from where I grew up, but back in the day the Bass Outlet (along with a Dexter – or was it Timberland? – outlet) were the only places to get discount prices on expensive shoes. This was all the days before big box stores like WalMart and Target, so the only places you could buy shoes was either at the mall, or at a local privately owned expensive shoestore. Being an athlete, my shoe budget usually went towards running shoes or field hockey cleats, so I seldom had anything leftover for fun shoes. Thom McCann (and eventually PayLess) was usually my only option if I needed something else.
But for some reason, at the tender age of 13, I decided that I absolutely needed a pair of penny loafers. And even though the pair that I wanted, original Bass Weejuns, were expensive for my parents budget, my mom conceded to letting me get them because she wore penny loafers when she was a teenager, and I think that she liked that I had similar tastes. After all, I wasn’t demanding spike heel hooker boots or stilettos or anything else that was questionable for a teenager…I was asking for a pair of practical, flat, conservative dress shoes. One trip to the Bass outlet and I happily returned home with a pair of oxblood Bass Weejuns, which were cheaper for me because at at the age of 13 I still wore children’s size shoes.
I loved my Weejuns and I wore them a lot throughout 8th grade, but by 10th grade my feet were no longer childrens size 13, and I had no choice but to start wearing adult ladies size 6.5 shoes. (I now wear a 6 in most shoes, but I was a 6.5 until about 3 years ago). And when I was in the 10th grade in 1992, the shoe to have was a pair of Bass boat shoes. Everyone wore them, and we did things with the laces so that you did not lace them up, you instead took the lace and reversed them outwards through the last hole and then spiraled the ends around themselves. Don’t ask me how to do this, I had to have someone else do it for me, but that was how we wore them. Without socks. Never, ever did we wear them with socks, not even in the dead of winter when we stood outside in the dark at 6:45 am waiting for the school bus in sub zero temperatures. Socks were verboten. Convincing my mom that I needed a pair of Bass boat shoes was not as easy as getting her to concede to the penny loafers. For one thing, she didn’t see the point of boat shoes. They were not dressy enough for a dress shoe, so what was the point? They were expensive and trendy, not a classic that could last forever. But then I dragged her to the outlet, and she was impressed with the fact that they had more than one color of boat shoe. Yes, the classic boat shoe was not only available in standard brown with a white sole, there were also pairs in black, burgundy, navy, and hunter green, all with brown soles. I wanted the hunter green. My mom liked the navy, but agreed that I had a lot more green clothes, so she agreed to purchase the green ones.
I wore those shoes to school (without socks, but with tights on occasion) every day for the remaining 3 years that I was in high school, and into my freshman year of college. By the time I was a sophomore, they had started to fall apart, were wearing holes in the toes, and they had grown mold on the inside,. In 1995 they were no longer in style (as a college student I had discovered combat boots and platforms), so I easily tossed them in the trash (a biohazardous waste collection bin would have been a more appropriate place for them).
Over the last year and a half, I went on a shoe buying bender where I only purchased shoes that had at least a 3″ heel. I now own over 50 pairs of shoes, boots, and clogs, all with a minimum of a 2″ heel. I do not own flats and refuse to wear them.
Except, suddenly I am craving my old Weejuns and boat shoes again. I find myself wanting a pair, thinking that they would look cute with a lot of outfits. I also am discovering that wearing 3+ inch heels every day is getting a bit uncomfortable (last year I seldom had to leave my classroom, but this year I have a study hall that is down two flights of stairs on the opposite side of the building).
The exact pairs that I owned are no longer available, and I have not yet found a similar enough pair to convince me to purchase any. I am skeptical about the comfort of flats…I prefer Dansko clogs over pure flats, and I hate the way flats make my legs look, but every once in a while I start looking again.
No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. I’ve been too busy with bike racing and work to really do any photos of any outfits lately. I did finish my trench style cape, so stay tuned for that soon.
In the meantime, the latest Petite Fashion Challenge is here, and this one was easy for me since I already had to put together a vacation wardrobe on my honeymoon, and thus did not have to put together anything new. Here we go:
For my vacation wardrobe, I need clothes that were comfortable enough for sightseeing in the heat of Rome in mid July, but also be able to do double duty for elegant dinners in Rome, and transfer into appropriate attire for my cycling vacation in France following my week in Italy. I tried to pack only items that were made of knit materials, so that everything would avoid wrinkling and dry quickly after sink washing. I also wanted stuff that wicked sweat.
Here are a few examples of how to dress for Europe in July, when one’s itinerary involves traipsing all over Vatican City or ancient Ruins during the day, then enjoying an elegant candlelit dinner at night. I also included some outfits that transitioned from Italy to Paris, where the temps fluctuated a good 30º F
Little Black Dress: Sizzle Dress by Athleta, in size XXS
Cardigan: Gap Kids size XL, dyed bright yellow (thrifted)
Sandals: Bebece Soft (purchased in Cape Town, South Africa on previous vacation)
Flats: purchased in a drugstore in Rome
Black Eurohalter top: Terry Precision
Floral print skirt: Terry Precision wrapper (old)
White sleeveless polo: Terry Precision (old)
Military jacket: Old Navy (thrifted)
White/navy stripe long sleeve tee: Ann Taylor XSP
Skirt: Terry Precision stretch mini (old)
Heels: Callisto (via Endless.com)
Yesterday, I took the day off from work for a midday dentist appointment. I decided to make a trip to Savers after my teeth had been cleaned in order to drop off 5 bags of clothes that I had recently purged from my closet (most of them had been hanging around since the early part of the last decade, but there were a few items that predate the year 2000, and it was time to say goodbye to my high school cheerleading uniform, the ugly bridesmaids dress from my sister’s 1995 wedding, and the too large leather 1970s vintage trench jacket that I bought at the Salvation Army when I was in college in 1997).
I had no need to buy anything at Savers, but I figured that since I was there, I would take a swing through and see if I could find anything. Nothing really caught my eye, but then I saw The Perfect Blouse. It was a size small, with long sleeves, a ruffled button front placket, ruffled mandarin collar, and ruffled cuffs (but not big ruffles…small, subtle ruffles). The color was a neutral taupe with the slightest hint of amber to it, giving it a warm fall tone. The buttons on the shirt were fabric covered, and the shirt itself was made of two layers of opaque chiffon. It fit really well, and had that nice drapey quality that I am seeing everywhere in stores, as opposed to a more stiff, fitted woven material of a traditional button down shirt. It was, essentially, the Perfect Fall 2011 Blouse, something that would work really nicely tucked into a pencil skirt, but would also look cute with jeans or a long skirt (not that I own any long skirts, but maybe someday I will venture into midi skirt territory). Better still, the shirt was a virtually unknown brand (Stitches, which appears to be a Canadian equivalent to Forever21, only with about 1/10th the total amount of merchandise), which means that the price was only $3.99. (I have noticed that anything Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, LOFT or J.Crew at Savers is now automatically priced at least at $7.99, which is an increase of about $3 since I started shopping at Savers 18 months ago).
I tried it on in the dressing room and the fit was great – it could have used the tiniest bit of slimming since the fit was boxy, but that was something that I could live with. I wandered around the store a bit more then proceeded to the checkout. And that was when tragedy struck – the cashier told me that the shirt had no price tag on it (it had fallen off somewhere in my travels around the store) and that they could not sell me anything without a price tag. I understand where they are coming from – they donate their proceeds to charity and they are a for profit store based on donations, so I am sure it’s a nightmare with inventory and things like that. But I really needed this shirt. The cashier took it away and told me that it had to go back into the To Be Priced stock but that if I came back tomorrow morning, I could buy it then. Except, you know, I usually work on weekday mornings.
I was disappointed, but I decided that it was a simple enough design that I could easily knock it off in a day, that the fabric was just a basic opaque chiffon available anywhere and that the pattern itself was something that I already had in my collection. The fact that the fabric is not a stiff woven meant that sewing it would be easy, no need for tailored details or interfacing…worst case scenario is I go the to the fabric store later in the week.
But then I decided that for the price of the fabric and buttons combined with my time (or lack thereof), I might as well just buy a shirt like this new, from a retail store. It’s not exactly an unusual shirt, and it’s on trend right now, so I figured between LOFT, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Gap, and Forever21, I could find a reasonable facsimile online.
I went home and started searching. And wouldn’t you know, that the only place I could find anything similar to The Perfect Blouse was either Yesstyle or some off shore manufacturer in Hong Kong via eBay. So frustrating. I did not want to buy from either, because shipping charges are high when things are coming from a Chinese or Korean distributor, and the transit times can be upwards of a month.
I then decided to reconsider the style of the blouse, and instead of looking for an exact replica, look for something in a similar color and fit. And despite my relaxed criteria, I was still struggling, but then on the LOFT website I saw this photo and I thought “that’s it…that will suffice.” And yay, it comes in Petite sizes.
Except, it doesn’t.
LOFT featured this blouse in their Petite’s home page, but the actual blouse pictured does not come in Petite sizes. WTF, LOFT? Why must you tempt me so?