Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Deco Vibe Diamond Life Dress

 I finished my first iteration of Hot Pattern's Deco Vibe Diamond Life Dress.  Trudy says that the idea behind the dress was to provide something stylish, a little edgy, but professionally appropriate that would be easy to throw on and wear in hellishly hot and muggy conditions.

This dress hits it outta the park on all counts. I can't wait to whip up a couple more in solid linens or a Japanese woven cotton design. It works as a dress on it's own, and it's easy to combine with a little denim jacket in chillier conditions.

This plaid, seersucker version is actually a 'wearable muslin'. Turns out the concept is Highly Controversial on the web......happily this one turned out. The fabric was on sale for $2.79, so i figured it was worth it to nail the fit, and if it was wearable afterward that's gravy! As it turns out i love the dress and it's wonderful to feel and look so pulled together when you're wilting from the heat.

The front bodice has a fairly wide overlap. I liked the feel of no buttons, and there's enough going on with the plaid. I ended up applying 6 1" velcro squares with topstitched "X-boxes". It works just fine as a closure and i'm digging the (very subtle) utilitarian feel.

To be brutally honest with y'all, i may have been a wee bit over exuberant on the footwear in this outfit. Crochet lace socks and flying bat patterned extra long laces? But i did get a lot of smiling faces looking at my feet. I figure a fashion faux pas is a small price to pay to bring a little happiness in this world.......

on edit: About the location: it's Moe's Books on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA. i shot the photo myself using a timer while posing in front of the Fashion section (of course!)

From Moe's website:
"Since its inception back in the heyday of the Beatnik era, Moe's Books has managed to become more than just a great bookstore--it has achieved the rarified status of a beloved landmark institution as well. Situated just four blocks from the University of California campus, Moe's has managed to mirror the often turbulent and triumphant times that have come to epitomize all that is exciting and unique about Berkeley.

Founded in 1959 by Moe Moskowitz and his wife Barbara, the original site of the store was a small shop on Shattuck just north of University Avenue. He moved the store up to Telegraph Avenue in the 1960's, right in the middle of the Free Speech Movement and the famous anti-war demonstrations that put Berkeley on the political map."

read more here:

Dress: Hot Patterns Deco Vibe Diamond Life, made by me
Jacket, Belt: thrifted
Hat: Berkeley Hat Company
Socks: Sock Dreams
Boots: Bass Lamont
Bracelet: Justina Leigh on etsy

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tips On Style Exploration

I assure you i have a point to this post - but i can't promise i'll be able to state it clearly and cleanly. I hope that i'll circle around it closely enough that you'll hone in on it yourselves.

Chances are, you're like me - you got into reading style blogs, and style blogging yourself, because you were interested in discovering your own personal style. This can range from wanting a subtle spruce-up to hardcore starting from ground zero: "I feel like i'm walking around in a costume, nothing fits, i hate everything in my closet, etc.". You go online and you are bombarded with images of cozens of fashionable, incredibly stylish and gorgeous women wearing impeccably styled, and endlessly varied, outfits. You discover new ways to tie a scarf, incredible places to shop at amazing prices, the thrills of thrifting, arm parties, and more. The answer to your style dilemma starts to form, automatically, in your fevered noggin.....push it to the limit. More is truly More. Never wear the same outfit, don't rely on black, vintage is queen, there's a way for every woman to wear every trend and color and silhouette......

Ravina mixes her newts to rave reviews - photographer, model, stylist: Ravina Sniper
 Allie of Wardrobe Oxygen touched on this topic in her article "Getting Literal". She begins with an Oscar Wilde quote: "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." Allie starts off: "The other day a woman walked into my office building as I was walking out. As soon as I saw her I knew...

I encourage you to take a look at Allie's article and the pretty lively discussion in the comments.  What i took away from Allie's post is that the personal style journey is a long one, and it takes place in your own personal life.  Especially with the easy access to hundreds of style blogs on the net, inspiration is rampant and even overwhelming. What's a lot scarcer is good, practical advice on how to use this inspiration to come up with a wardrobe that expresses your own personal style and works with your practical and lifestyle parameters. Frankly, that takes a lot more serious thinking on the part of the reader as well as the writer - it's hard getting across new, abstract concepts. And there are so many different parameters and variations to deal with in even one woman's wardrobe. Ideas that bring everything together for one woman will be useless for another. 
 The idea i'd like to get across in this post goes something like this - try to keep your style explorations wide and open, especially in the beginning. For me, and for many others, the temptation and obvious idea is to focus on 'your pure style essence', nail that down, and try to force it full strength on every aspect of your life.  I wore dressy, multi-layered looks for years. I lived in an area where 'everything went', so i didn't have to dress up or down for different occasions. Then i moved to a very hot climate, became a stay at home spouse, and hit 'the big M'.  And nothing worked. Even my good old standby lipstick did nothing for me. I had to start completely from scratch.  
 Partly this was bad luck and a lot of big changes at once. But it was also my own durn fault. I hadn't had a lot of reasons to focus on expressing my personal style in the different aspects of my life, and on the different ends of my style spectrum. So i didn't. Most people i knew would've said i had a great style. But when circumstances forced me to change, i had no practice in 'flexing' my style. Trust me, it was painful.

Fortunately, flexing your style is easy and cheap to do. You just have to remember to do it  :)  If you tend to be dressy, make outfits out of your 'workaday', more casual clothing. I ended up doing a month-long 'workaday challenge' at the instigation of Cynthia of Be Fabulous Daily last year and learned a LOT. Read all the posts here. To get 'the drift', here's the intro post, and here's the wrap up

Ravina goes retro business casual - & is model, stylist, and photographer
Ravina took the plunge and dressed out of the newtral side of her closet a weekend ago. The outfits she came up with show the more classic, grown up side of her personal style - good to have experience with when you are invited to a professional function, for example. Neither of our experiments required any new purchases - we just used neglected parts of our wardrobes, or combined pieces in non-usual ways.

Setting yourself these type of challenges is a staple of the style blogger world. But you can also look for the areas of your life that could use more style expression/exploration - running errands, the gym, sleepwear, etc. How can you dress as yourself in these areas? Again, most of these areas can be explored very inexpensively at Target, H & M, and so on.
However you choose to explore and expand the limits of your personal style, i can't encourage you enough to do so. It's valuable in so many ways, one of which i've yet to mention. You may very well find that what you thought you knew about yourself isn't so.  A year ago i would never have described my style as anything approaching minimalist - but it turns out it is (even Angie says so!).  I had to find my own way to do minimalist, and stretching my wings in unexpected areas was what helped me to do exactly that. 

Blouse: Butterick 4985
Skirt: own design
Jacket: thrifted
Sandals: Aerosoles

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More On Neutrals In Your Wardrobe

Eccentric HQ received many interesting comments making new and useful points regarding newts in the wardrobe from our scintillatingly intelligent readership. On to a round-up!

ilegirl made some valuable points on neutrals in the comments to my last post:

"You do neutrals so well, and by wearing ivories close to your face you bring out that healthful natural glow in your complexion.

Sounds like a compliment, right? And it is, of course, as you always look so lovely. But it's also an observation that you've discovered what works for your skin tone - the best neutral for you. I think this is key, because (for example) a charcoal gray top would have me looking as pale as a cadaver while on Ravina it would likely be smashing.

I still struggle with this too. It's easy to be seduced by the cute piece in a store and forget that it needs to be incorporated into an outfit. And while a loud plaid and a bright floral print can theoretically pair nicely, the reality is that some good neutrals create a foundation from which our creativity builds."

 another largely newtral outfit with a lot of color interest

ilegirl's coloring is beautiful and rare - on the pale side with true golden and beige tones, her eyes are a bewitching greenish hazel.  Her emphasis on warm greens in her wardrobe really brings out the ethereal aspect of her coloring. But where to look when adding newts? Trial and error always helps. Go to a store with lots of colors (fabric, decorating, paint, clothing, party supplies), hold a bunch of colors up to your face and see how you look (you may want to take a mirror and a friend who's visual taste you trust).  Try to notice details or patterns that will help you narrow down your color search : do you like warm or cool colors? do you like really saturated colors or lighter, more washed out ones? do you like clear colors or muddier, more complex ones? what 'colors' do you like?

Let's say you're loving the way yellows look on you. You want to choose newts that have a lot of yellow. This will tend towards camels, tans, creams......what you are looking for is a newt that contains a lot of the 'color' that flatters you. Navy has a lot of blue. Many greys have a lot of violet or blue undertones. Other greys have a lot of brown in there. If you find you look better in colors that aren't too dark (concentrated) or light (washed out) than choose newts that aren't too dark or light. And so on. This can help direct your search, hopefully, and then you can try out your ideas in the clothing store.

Another strategy to try is expanding your concept of a newt. In the past several years, the offerings of colors in the sage-olive drab-army green-dun green-khaki olive range have been plentiful indeed. Many of these colors are quite 'muddied' or drabbed down to the point that they read as more newtral than green - but the green is still there to do it's complexion flattering magic. Denim is also widely available, from light to dark and in stretch, tissue weight, various washes and finishes. The great majority of denims tend to be newtral as well on the warm-cool scale, making them an excellent chose for a wardrobe newtral.

I received another great tip via e-mail from ma: "You could mention that if your skin tone won't allow beige without making you look like a total bath towel (or other awful thing, thinking of me in beige - urk), a scarf in a color may allow it.  It only took about 60 years for me to realize that."  This tip works with any newt and any item that will be worn away from your face - skirts, trousers, shoes, socks and tights, etc. It's especially good to keep in mind when facing limited offerings in a critical wardrobe item. Ravina works this one quite well in her outfit at the top of this post - it matters not how her grey boots look next to her complexion. The cobalt blues really make her coloring come alive, and the greys play a wonderful supporting role. This gets back to ilegirl's second point - that newts can play an important role in creating outfits.  I hope these collaborative posts have given you some insight and tools on how to get newts to work for you!

Blouse, Skirt, Vest: own design
Shoes: Bass Lacey Oxfords

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How To Get Unstuck

Ravina Sniper hits a wall that all of us are familiar with in this post.  Your wardrobe is kind of there, but not really. You don't have the time, energy, money, style icons, creativity, aesthetic resources, skill, fill-in-the-blank to move towards the wardrobe goals that have become even more important to you. banananutmuffin started a very interesting thread on the You Look Fab forum recently stating another common reason for style-stuckness. She titled the thread "What to do wear when your style is incongruent with your lifestyle?"  banananutmuffin is a stay at home mom with an infant and toddler plus chickens to much out every morning - with a bombshell/minimalist style profile. You end up getting a job that will allow you to afford those gorgeous designer duds you crave - but the job involves solvents, adhesives, and grubbing around on your hands and knees. Your checkbook is finally flush and J. Peterman goes bankrupt. ***

I've been there more often than i like to think about, certainly! But happily i have learned from these times. So i'm embarking on a series of posts to set forth what i've learned - tips and tricks, strategies, what/how to research, helpful philosphies. If you have any questions about this general area, send me an e-mail or leave a comment and i'll answer as best i can.

Today - monochrome looks and the power of newtrals. For whatever reason, monochrome looks and newtrals read as higher quality, classic, and chic. Monochrome looks are straightforward to put together, the color scheme automatically gives the look a cohesiveness and that 'pulled together' vibe. As in the pictures for this post, there's no need to do the 'matchy matchy' thing - mix up a range of camel-ivory, dove grey through to charcoal, navy blue through dark wash denim. The first outfit was dirt cheap - no piece cost me more than $10. But the overall feel is much richer and more chic.

Now i'm a notorious newt-lover. Take this into account while reading the following. I'm not suggesting everyone compose a newt-only wardrobe. But including a nice proportion of newtrals that flatter you and work well with your favorite colors can really grease the wheels of your wardrobe. It can be really hard to find enough acid-green pieces to coordinate into a great, chic look. It's much easier (especially with limited resources) to find one great acid green showcase item to blend with some tan, camel, and khaki items to make a great look. Newts are flexible and play well with many, many colors - a wardrobe with 1/3 newtrals will offer many more mixing options than one with 100% 'color colors'.

Neutrals also come in many shades and colors. Black and white are standard. But don't forget denim blue, navy, charcoal, dove grey, olive drab, army green, khaki, camel, ivory, tan, taupe.......i'm all about tan, taupe, beige, khaki.....but Ravina's wonderful purples and burgundies would blend beautifully with medium to dark greys and inky navy blues. And individual newtral colors come in many many variations. Denim blue ranges from inky dark blue all through to faded sky blue.  If you choose one newtral to bring into your wardrobe, don't neglect the options you can make for yourself by bringing in a range of that newtral.

This part is a wee bit technical, but i hope i'll get the point across.  The fibres used to make fabric are dyed with chemicals. These chemicals all have various properties - some are cheaper, some more expensive, some 'take' better than others on various fibres, some fade very quickly and others last forever. All of these qualities have impacts on your garment - price, life length, etc. For whatever reason, most neutrals seem to come form less expensive, better quality dye chemicals. So a nice black or khaki will be cheaper, look richer, and last longer than, say, your average medium pink or mustard yellow. This is just a general rule gathered from long years of experience (hanging onto clothes for much too long!)  But i have found that many cheaper 'colors' just look - cheap. And they don't last that long. If you look around and find yourself persuaded of this idea, you may wish to take it into consideration in your own wardrobe planning.

*** not that this still bothers me. a dozen long, excruciating years later.........

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Get The Most From Your Sewing Pattern Dollar: Part Two

 Now - the shopping part! We've had one great tip submitted already by The Wilted Magnolia. The main pattern publishers (McCall's, Vogue, Simplicity, etc.) offer sales on their entire stock multiple times a year. It seems that Vogue has a "$4.99 for all patterns" online sale about every 2-3 months. This is a great reduction from $30.00 or even $17.99, though you do have to add shipping (around five bucks in the USA).

However, here in the USA we have a very large crafts and sewing chain called Joann's. They have pattern sales on 'the big boys' pretty much constantly. Simplicity patterns often go for $1.99 each (maybe for 2 weeks every couple of months), then maybe twice a year there will be a two week sale of this brand for .99 each.  They have Vogue patterns on sale for $4.99 every three months or so, which is nice because you don't have to pay shipping. However, just last month they had all Vogue patterns on sale for $3.99, which is the cheapest i've ever seen!  So it makes sense to scope out your local stores and read their circulars and advertisements to get a feel for their 'sales cycle'. Then you'll know when to swoop in for the best deals.

Sometimes i'll be in the mood to pay full (or close to) price for a pattern, specifically for patterns made and published by smaller houses. These include Hot Patterns, La Fred, Colette Patterns, The Sewing Workshop, and so on. These are harder to get for a dirt-cheap price, but i don't mind. These are smaller businesses that don't get the economies of scale of a Butterick or Simplicity. Additionally, the designs they publish are much more distinctive, and if you find yourself really loving a particular designer's line, it is worthwhile to support them so they'll keep on with it! Also, i've read in many instances of seamstresses contacting small pattern publishers for help and getting it - amazing and wonderful!

So, how to go about buying a more expensive pattern? One trick i like is to use holiday present money - i'll let family know that 'cash always fits', then spend that money on a nice pattern. This IS purely psychological, but the budgeting is easy. Again, do your due diligence when shopping. I bought two Hot Patterns patterns (?) and found the prices were 20% less on Additionally, orders of $35.00+ receive free shipping on - so i added a big spool of discount Gutermann thread to my order and came out almost $10.00 less than buying the same two patterns direct from As it happens, these particular patterns are printed with sizes 6-26 all in one envelope. This makes it easier to customize your own fit, and is perfect for 2-3 gals of varying sizes to share (thus changing the cost per use).

Many sewing patterns, especially vintage and out of print, are sold on e-bay. It's a great resource!! Again, buyer beware, check the descriptions and seller history very carefully, and don't bid against your own mother. You can also search for "Completed Listings" in the Advanced Search option. This will show you auctions that have already ended with details on price, etc., so you can get an idea of the going rate for your pattern. For newbies, here's a dictionary of e-bay acronyms and shorthands, so you can translate the listings.

Many thrift shops also sell old-timey patterns for a quarter of fifty cents a piece. It's definitely hit or miss, but if you're there anyways give it a whirl.  On the plus side you can thoroughly examine the item before purchase. Be careful that all the pieces that you need are present (neck facings or cuffs are easily drafted), and that it's a size that will work for you.

Bear in mind that the more thought, time, and effort you put into research you put into your purchase the better deal you will find. Mr. E consistently finds outrageous deal son shoes, clothing, etc. It's because he'll spend a few hours on the web over several days, going all the way to page 20 of search engine listings. He also makes sure to search for coupons. Just enter "name of your item + the word 'coupon'" into a search engine and start slogging through the results.

While house sitting in Albany recently i tried out some cooler weather looks. Albany is right across the San Francisco Bay from the Golden Gate and catches huge gobs of fog, so it's rarely toasty there. I've seen this type of approach from Ralph Lauren and on vacationing celebrities - a sleek and chic outfit topped with a cozy parka. It's fun and practical and i'm looking forward to cooler days!

Over to you - cheap patterns and fall fashions on the discussion board today!

Blouse, Skirt: own design
Denim Jacket: thrifted
Parka: vintage L.L. Bean
Boots: Bass Lamonts