Monday, December 24, 2012

A Blatant Rip Off

I truly didn't mean to come up with a line for line knockoff of the V8795 envelope picture - specifically view C.

Vogue 8795 view C
 Honest! Look, i even made a mock-up of this cotton French terry fabric in a completely different pattern entirely (V8620 by Marcy Tilton).

auditioning 'all animal' vs. 'half animal - half stripes'
However, when the fabric arrived it had such sumptuous drape (enhanced by the lycra, no doubt) that i nixed it for 8620. Marcy Tilton describes 8620 as an 'updated version of the jean jacket', and we all know jean jackets use a sturdy denim. But, my experience with 8795 showed me that this pattern is perfect married with a very drapey fabric as it softens the shape of the boxier cut. edit: Shams reminded me i should post a link to the fabric on Marcy Tilton's site - here it is!

I'd bee itching to use this hook and eye tape for something since just about ever. Almost a year ago, i spied this outrageously oversized hook and eye tape on offer at Stone Mountain and Daughters. Wow!!! I had no idea what to do with it, but man was i jonesin'.

everything lines up so neatly at center hem - yay!

When 8795 hit the catalog a few months later, i thought Ms. Tilton's use of the self same hook and eyes was perfection.  To sweeten matters, in the interim Stone Mountain had knocked the tape off by 50%. I purchased enough for at least two jackets. I can't tell you how tough this tape looks, i love it on and am very happy to have more! Even better, it's plenty sturdy so when this piece wears out i'll be able to use the hook and eye again. Oh yeah.

Well, in truth my new piece has discernible differences from the 'view C' iteration. "View C" uses a zipper, for one, and i chose to fully line my jacket with black cotton jersey while Ms. Tilton's example is unlined. She even uses the selvedge edges as design features. But I like the feel of a jersey lining, it adds some warmth, and makes the piece look so nice and cleanly finished inside and out. Plus, the back of the animal print terry is stark white, which really clashed with the whole 'vibe' that the piece was developing. So i omitted the little facings and lined the whole thing.

black jersey lining and nicely draping edges
In my twenties, thirties, and on into my forties i held myself to a curious rule when sewing from patterns. The idea of copying any of the views shown on the envelope scandalized me, and i couldn't bring myself to do it.  I even shied away from making a piece up in a similar color to any of the versions in the illustrations, whether or not this color would be the most flattering or useful in my closet. The reasons behind this 'block' of mine? Who knows! I don't even know what changed my views on the matter. Whatever the root of block or release, nowadays, i just want clothes i like.  Creative origins be damned!

And now for a couple of seasonal treats. True to the 'E' in my blog title, i'm not a traditionalist here, either. But i love winding up little kids (and adults), so i enjoy the spirit of the season. Here's a couple of eccentric holiday offerings for you - But Beware! They are not for the faint of heart!

My latest resident ear worm is this Original Aboriginal Christmas song, sung by Shoshoni Elder Oldhands.  Five hundred years on, contact is still a fraught business. Still, Santa stays true to his shamanistic roots and provides bounty for everyone in the family, even in the most difficult - nay, dire - of circumstances.

Lon Stickler's blog Phantoms and Monsters is THE place to go for the weirdest of the weird. Seven foot tall mantis men, First Nations families battling the stray leftover interdimensional pterodactyl, reptilian special forces spotted during training exercises in abandoned mines - Lon has it all and more. Last year he posted a particularly creepy and disturbing story involving a young boy in the snowy, deserted north; the local teller of tall tales; and the possible deceased body of Santa..........i have remembered it ever since and present it here for those who love a dark and spooky tale. Definitely not for everyone.

Whatever you do or don't celebrate this time of year, we all respond to the return of the light. Welcome Sun, giver of all good things - light, warmth, food. If past experience is any guide, i'll stop feeling the strong urge to hibernate pretty soon, too. Happy Holidays! All My Relations, Ho!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Outer Shell

Mr. E bought me this duster as my birthday present, back in May. It's a lightweight cotton, lined with acetate, and saw very little use in our hothothot summer. Mr. E worried i didn't like his gift, but i assured him when temps (finally) dipped this duster would be in constant use. And it has! It's too light for our recent cold snap (daytime temps in low 40's F), but in our usual warmer climate it's fine layered over a long sleeved top and cashmere or alpaca cardi.

In fall and winter, my style is all about 'the outer shell'. I like to come up with a few sets of outer pieces to create my looks for the season. These sets generally consist of a topper, hat, and scarf.  This trio has been my go-to set this winter so far. I enjoy the pear shape i get by buttoning the duster up high and letting the wool gauze scarf fall. This beret is also wool, very toasty.

I can't recall the last time i had a duster-type jacket in my closet. Wait, it's coming back to me - never! i have no idea why not, since the dramatic shape and style connotations seem right up my alley. It could be that i was waiting for 'the one'. Unfortunately, many dusters seem created solely to hide butt and thighs, rather than to flatter or create a sense of drama and intrigue. I need a bit of my shape to show, either through tailoring or drapey fabric, otherwise i look like i'm carrying around my own group emergency shelter. Whatever the reason i've been 'duster-less' until now, i am thrilled that i've finally found one that works, and works so well. In fact, i've snagged the pattern and fabric to create another duster/dress - in linen and a bit longer, perhaps all the way down to the knee.

Oof, i was tired when i took these pictures and it shows! Nevermind, i loved this variation of this look and wanted to remember it. The same 'outer shell' as above, this time on top of petticoat, skirt, and over the knee socks.

In this pic you can see the duster's shaping around the back of the waist. I get a kick out of the way this ensemble downplays my bust - amazingly so, as long time blog readers will realize there's quite a bit to camouflage! Creating a different shape with clothes is one of my favorite style activities. It's like magic :)

I don't want to ignore the role that these skinny jeans have been playing in my wardrobe these days. They are warm, easy to wear, comfy, up to date and stylin'!  Best of all, they were super duper easy to get my hands on. Remember these boot cut jeans i made long ago?

Goodness gracious, it was over a year ago! Time flies.  Well, i never wore them. "Dark wash bootcut jeans" have got to be the most recommended piece for middle aged ladies looking to up their style game. Theoretically i can see all of their great points and wonderful flexibility.....however when confronted with the actual critter in my closet i'll choose something else every time.  Somewhere around last July or August it occurred to me that i could just peg the darn things. (See what i mean by my 'blog closet' being out of touch with my 'real closet'?).  I did, and since then our relationship status has been 'inseparable'.

Ah, it takes me back to high school in the late 1970's, when the only way i could get the jeans i wanted was to peg my own. These days we have unlimited choice - which leads to the problem of knowing what it is you want. It's so difficult to find that sweet spot for some of us! I'm just pleased as punch that i got a whole new pair of perfect pants with no shopping or (full-garment) sewing involved.

Do any of you think of  'outer shells' during the colder seasons as well? Or do you rely on one warm coat for the practicalities, and concentrate on how you look once you arrive at your destination and the coat comes off? The latter approach served me when i was growing up, and the last couple of years i've been sloooowly developing 'outer shells'. Needless to say, i would be fascinated to hear about any style strategies you have developed for looking great when it's cooler. Two is hardly a vast array of strategies, and my motto in that arena is 'the more the merrier'!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Style Doppelgangers

aaack! My blog closet is so behind my real life closet i've been flummoxed and a bit paralyzed when confronted with the idea of a new post. For the last week or so i have been thinking over how to present my outfits, wardrobe planning, culling, mini-challenge, and new made garments in a coherent and engaging manner. The topic reliably makes me feel muddle headed and tired, so I've faced the fact that there's no suave, organized way to 'catch you up'. The only option is to dive on in, post with abandon and let the chips fall where they may!

This look didn't photograph all that well. But it was fun and practical to wear. My new schedule (dropping hubby off and picking him up at the transit station morning and night) has affected my dressing routine. I'm out in the early morning cold, when i'm creaky and slow on my feet. Evenings at the transit station are also cold and can be windy as well, but i enjoy the opportunity to park the car and walk about a bit, or sit and read at the little square with fountain, watching the commuters whisk by and the locals walking their doggies while waiting for the 70X to deliver Mr. E.

I am much more limber and perky in the evening than in the morning. Thus, i'll 'dress' in the late afternoon for my evening outing and wear the same ensemble the next morning. It's much easier for me to get motivated at that hour, and i enjoy being 'fresh' for the most public part of my day. Of necessity these looks are very warm, so i'll often change again as the day warms up.

My nightly jaunts have brought home to me the value of a warm hat for fighting the chill. This hat is lined with faux fur which makes for a toasty topper!  My scarf is a gauzy wool, and this leather jacket blocks the wind so none of the wooly lining's warmth goes to waste. I received a charming and unexpected compliment the evening i sported this look. As i took a brisk turn around the live/work complex which abuts the BART station, a mysterious stranger ambled into view. A silhouette revealed an Australian drover's duster with capelet over the shoulders, cowboy hat, bootcut jeans over chunky boots, all in midnight black. As the stranger drew closer i took in his scraggly beard and piercing, level gaze. He looked me up and down (much as i was taking in his own sartorial flair), and then.....

.....tipped his hat. He didn't say "Goo-day ma'am", but his respectful message came across all the same. It's rare to find yourself confronted with a sartorial doppleganger, much less one of the opposite gender. We both wore jeans, leather, hats, well-constructed leather footwear, the whole in dark colors and dramatic silhouettes.  The fact i glimpsed my style twin whilst wearing pieces that had been with me for as long as 17 years made the moment even more piquant.

 Well, this is what happens when i take myself in hand and venture out to get a pair of plain, dark hued socks. Nothing that will take center stage of any outfit, that's the plan. Just nice, practical cushioning and coverage.....well, in my defense i didn't run across any socks which fit that description. And yes i did look! I'm sure a suitable pair will show up soon enough.

In the meantime, i've named these two Valerie and Jean. Reveal your favorite style doppelgangers in the comments. Happy Weekend and see you again, soon!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homage Murakami

Well, even though i have more than my share of gaping holes in my wardrobe basics, i couldn't resist making this little piece just for fun. Obviously, it is a blatant rip off of Nancy Murakami's little bubble lace cardi in black, over which i drooled in my last post. I made my version using the same Marcy Tilton for Vogue pattern, and just used an ivory dot patterned lace instead of black. I had been eyeing this pattern for months, but it's out of print so it can be hard to get ahold of, and the price can get pretty steep. By happy circumstance, Vogue Patterns recently had a fantastic sale on out of print patterns - $2.99 a pop! - now 8559 is mine. (And just in time, too - i went to link back to Vogue Patterns and 8559 is sold out.)

Heesh, i'm such a copy kitten i even wore my new cardi over a black dress in the same silhouette as Nancy's!  In my defense, I didn't have to run out and make the dress, after all, it's been in my closet for a couple of years. As has the white petticoat (stolen from this knockout Murakami ensemble), the shoes and other accessories. Many style gurus will advise one to take inspiration and make it your own. Others opine that mediocre artists take inspiration, great artists steal wholesale. I'll just say, why mess with perfection?

Even though this particular garment is a bit of charming fluff, i did have a serious underlying purpose in purchasing this pattern. A warm, easy layering cardigan is one of the backbone pieces of my closet, especially during the cooler months. For decades i've relied on a succession of little black cashmere cardigans to fill this role, one at a time. I love cashmere for it's warmth, comfort, and feather weight. But a jewel neck cardi with little shell buttons.......eyelids dropping..........wake me when it's over!  Where is the cardi that slips over a top and under a jacket while actually adding a bit of style along with it's practicality?

In my closet, thanks to Ms. Tilton and Ms. Murakami!  This cardigan pattern is very comfortable and perfect for layering. There's back interest without adding bulk, the 3/4 sleeves don't get in the way while washing dishes and such, and the neckline adds plenty of style without interfering clumsily with more ornate collars, scarves, etc.. There's even a variation on this cardi with faux ribbing at the hems and front and back cut as one. The pattern also includes a cute little tank, which like the cardi-jackets makes up in a snap. In fact, i'm making up the tank in this same bubble lace for a  twinset. And i'm scouting a couple of nice knits for more practical (warmer) versions of this cardi. It's so exciting for me to have found a wonderful solution to a very distressing, decades long wardrobe problem!

All right now, if any of you have made any workhorse breakthroughs or found the style icon who's closet you would steal outright, tell us all about it in the comments!  And if you missed the links in my last posts, click here (scroll down) and here to ogle more Nancy Murakami creations.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

It Lives!!!!

This blog, that is ;)   Life continues busy in a good way, just not much extra time. I would venture to say it does look like i'm getting towards 'caught up' with enough things to be able to post more regularly - except i'm nervous about jinxing it.  So no public comments.

I may not have been blogging, but i've been a busy wardrobing bee. In the process of researching patterns and fabrics to create some wardrobe workhorses i ran across Marcy Tilton's website and have been obsessing around there ever since. Marcy sells fabric on her website and does an excellent job of talking about how to use the various fabrics successfully with different patterns, which as a notoriously slow fabric shopper i find very helpful.

Marcy Tilton also showcases different ways other women have made up her many designs for Vogue Patterns.  A true love of creativity comes across in the pieces she shows made by other seamstresses. And i love that the more a person has tweaked her original design the more Marcy loves it! While inspecting all these wonderful everyday garments on Marcy's site I've fallen head over heels with the capsule wardrobes and outfits made by Nancy Murakami. Nancy Murakami is a designer/sewist who helps out in the Tilton booth at the Puyallup Sewing Expo. Good grief, does this woman knows how to dress the part! Scroll down a bit here to check out her gorgeous capsule wardrobe based on black and white. Her pieces blow away any and all stereotypes about boring: capsules, repeating, black and white, etc.  In Marcy's March 2012 Newsletter you can drool over four more of Nancy Murakami's outfits. In this grouping Nancy added a bit of a paprika orange to her black, white, & grey palette. Yow!

In mulling over how to use these influences in a way that makes sense for me and my daily life, I have found myself working more with Sewing Plum's type of personal style questions (this is an invaluable post for anyone finding their own style and working towards expressing it in their wardrobe). I have been thinking over my own personal style/clothing/wardrobe priorities and while i don't have them absolutely nailed and written down in a neat little list, i did end up achieving most of these goals in this wee jacket. It's designed by Marcy Tilton for Vogue Patterns, #8795. In these pictures from the Vogue Patterns website you can see some of the details better than in my black version, such as the center front flounce.

these photos  make it easier to see the flounce detail - Vogue 8795

One penny which continues to drop is that i need to feel physically comfortable in my clothing AND this does NOT have to dictate a sloppy, mushy look.  Plenty of 'comfy looking' clothes are actually a pain to wear, whilst clothing with a sharp design edge may well be smooth, soft, a dream to wear. I actually manged to pull off this seeming conundrum in this jacket. The crisp lines, sharp black and white contrast, the stripes, the utilitarian look of oversized metal snaps all contribute to a sharper, edgier look. At the same time, this piece is constructed of two different velvets and lined with fine cotton jersey......aaahhhhh. Like floating in a silky bubble bath!

Jilly & me at our meetup - she's wearing her V8795 jacket + Trippen boots, i'm in my new V8837 skinny pants

Or like my mom said the other day about my Katherine Tilton for Vogue Patterns skinny pants, "They're old lady pants that don't look like old lady pants!" I'm wearing these pants in this picture with Jillian of Jilly Be Joyful (taken during our sewing meetup - more on that below). I made these pants of stretch twill with a pull on elastic waistband - pure comf. At the same time, they look cute cute cute and up to the minute with their 'equestrian' style seaming. Now i am aware that i have been harping on this concept of 'comfort level is not  related to style' for over a year now on this blog. But i keep kind of 'getting it' at deeper levels. It goes to show how deeply various stereotypes and 'wisdom' or 'common sense' get ingrained into our psyches. It takes a long time to dig out the various tentacles!

A few years ago mom bought me a wonderful little jacket - embroidered velvet lined in loose weave rayon jacquard. It adds the structured feel of a jacket to outfits, while wrapping me in the cuddly warmth of a fuzzy sweater and providing just the right amount of warmth during much of our year.  Ever since i realized it's wonderful usefulness i've been interested in copying this idea - velvet jacket lined with a nice natural fiber. Using cotton jersey as the lining instead of a woven was a great idea, as it adds to the warmth while being smooth enough to glide over any tops underneath. I also used this jacket to add some different textures to my wardrobe (the velvets), as well as to showcase a great bit of concentrated detail in the snaps over the stripe bands - two more of my personal style priorities (more variety in texture and some concentrated details).

snaps, stripes made with color, stripes made in three dimensions.

However, i did break one style resolution - to use new fabric instead of continually cannibalizing old garments for fabric. It takes more time and it's a hassle and the resulting garment usually has less 'life' left in it than if i had used new materials.  Almost a decade ago i bought a pair of stretch velvet bootcut pants from Carushka. Stretch velvet, worn right next to the skin with no lining, is cold cold cold in winter! And hot in summer.....i only wore them a handful of times, but kept them as i knew i would find a use for the gorgeous fabric. I cut the front, backs, collar and flounce from these pants. The stripe is a beefy cotton lycra from a Goodwill tee. I did buy new yardage for the sleeves - a velvet with a very fine dimensional stripe. I cut one sleeve with the stripe along the line of the sleeve, the other with the stripes going around. I enjoy the very subtle effect this makes in black - it adds a bit more texture, besides. And the lining material is new. My resolution was half achieved.

no need to carry a scarf - or worry about losing one, either.
This jacket did take me quite a while to finish in calendar-time, what with all the other hoo-ha occupying my days. I also decided to just relax a little, enjoy the process and do it right, instead of worrying about a 'deadline'.  My meetup with Jillian of Jilly Be Joyful to compare notes on this jacket's construction added even more enjoyment. We found out we were both involved in making up this pattern at the same time via the Stitcher's Guild Forum. Her jacket took even more fussing than mine, as she made FIVE MUSLINS in order to perfect the fit. Dang! And how worth it was that - she looks stylish, edgy, the blue-grey makes her incredible eyes even more mesmerizing, and the utilitarian hook-and-eye tape rocks and rolls! (heehee, i managed to snag a couple of yards of that tape meself - on sale. w00t!) I also highly recommend checking out Jillian's amazing Trippen booties - i had to keep remembering not to drool.

After all of the planning, plotting, researching, scheming, dreaming, experimenting i've done towards developing my wardrobe it's so rewarding to see things starting to take shape. I would be perfectly happy wearing this outfit and the parts in it for years on end. They fit my body, they fit my style, they fit my life and make me happy. It's invigorating to be moving from the 'preparation and finding out' stage to the 'okay this is the real deal stage'. I still have plenty of work to do, especially since really the clothes i love the best i make for myself. (Adrienne of Wear The Hat may be coming around to this viewpoint as well. Not that i'm biased!) But it's all very much within reach.  Whodda thunk it?  And where are you in your own journey of dressing yourself?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shopping For Wardrobe Basics: Eileen Fisher

Silky sleeveless tunic, pencil skirt, 'oval' sweater with skinny arms by Eileen Fisher

oh, have i missed you guys! I have been adjusting to Mr. E's new work schedule (i drive him to the bus stop in the morning and pick him up at nite), on top of that my grandma turned 100 and we had a big family party down in Fresno. But i'm getting my balance again, logistically. But at the same time, i've been bursting with wardrobe/sewing ideas and research, with concepts tumbling through my brain much more quickly than i can blog them. One of these ideas is that i am much more interested in presenting concepts that will help people pull together their own wardrobes and personal styles than i am blogging about my outfits of the day. I am sure i will use my own clothes to illustrate these concepts, as they are ready to hand, but the emphasis will be on the concepts.  This blog has been trending in the 'concept' direction for a while now anyways, so i hope that making this direction more explicit will help me write more helpful, easy to understand posts.  And as always, send me your questions or ideas - pygmyowl at sbcglobal dot com.

Now, on to today's topic - shopping for basics. These pieces go by many names: essentials, the glue that holds the wardrobe together, the cake (not frosting), the veggies (not dessert). The perfect white tee, the black dress you can style up or down, the uber flattering black pencil skirt or trousers. Stylists and wardrobe experts sing the praises of these items, but in the blogging world and in real life shopping they do not get a lot of love. It's understandable, as their charms are subtle and are more likely to unfold in a long term relationship, rather than in a passionate but short-lived affair. So, how to find 'the one' when you only have a few minutes together in a bland little room?

ponte sheath with stretch silk lining - heaven to wear!
About two months ago i decided that i was secure enough in my personal style and wardrobe requirements to put a bigger investment in my clothing. This means, for me, higher quality fabrics and better construction techniques, and a commitment to fewer nicer pieces. My vision is to develop a number of 'tried and true' sewing patterns for these pieces so i can keep the closet populated with these workhorses (as long as i keep at the sewing machine).  To begin, I re-doubled my research on 'closet vegetables', those staple pieces which form the backbone of a well-oiled wardrobe, in a quest to develop my own list of personal essentials.

In my search for inspiration i became quite enamored of Eileen Fisher's take on essentials. First, i appreciated that she explicitly addresses this concept with her 'System' pieces. You can find these items in the store by looking at the hang tags - system items have a little clock on their tag. And i loved the aesthetic of these pieces - wonderful fabrics that feel good and perform well, cuts that work with the body, and stylish design that adds interest while allowing the piece to honestly play it's 'background' role.

Eileen's famous stretch ponte pencil skirt with my own Merona tee
All very yummy. But for those of us with less mainstream styles, it can be well nigh impossible to visualize these pieces playing productively in our closet. Many Urban Warrior Princesses struggle with just this issue - they could really use some veggies, but where do mistresses of RATE and ALGO fly in Ms. Fisher's flock of serene, impeccably groomed, flats-wearing meditation queens?

To answer just this question, after dropping my brother off at Oakland International Airport the other day i spent an hour at the Eileen Fisher outlet in Marina Square, San Leandro. I learned a lot about the role veggies in my own personal style and aspirational wardrobe.  Here's what i did that made this expedition worthwhile:

Take along your trademark accessories. I brought a hat, some pearls, a belt, and the "fakeskin" heels i wore all summer. I would be likely to wear these pieces with any basics so it made sense to take them into the dressing room. You will notice that putting these 'trademark's together with a whole meal of veggies does a couple of things. To begin, it makes outfits out of these basics. As well, it makes these outfits look like my outfits. It's hard to visualize a plain black skirt as 'you' when you're standing in stocking feet and an old, dingy bra, hair full of static from the dozens of garments pulled over your head.  Frankly, that is a tall order for any garment.  And you aren't going to be wearing that skirt 'styled' in that manner, anyway. So make the effort and style these pieces in the dressing room.

A little diversion: Kismet at work! Lisanne of sewingplum's blog has an excellent post up on sewing a wardrobe of basics and deriving the style interest solely from accessories. Lisanne is working from Janice's concept of the common wardrobe. View Janice's many takes on accessorizing the common wardrobe here. All of the pictures in this post illustrate this idea.

Bring a couple of 'frosting' pieces you think you will want to wear with these basics. I didn't do this, though i did try on the pencil skirt with a vee neck tee from my closet. But when i was in the dressing room i realized how smart it would have been to have a jacket, coat, statement blouse, or boots. I will do this on my next 'veggie safari', even if it's 95F outside and all i want to wear is my skivvies!

i want this rayon spandex dress! style could not be easier.

Take pictures and/or a trusted friend. This goes double if you have trouble wrapping your mind around essentials and how they would work with your own non-mainstream style. Both suggestions will help you get some objectivity and think about these pieces in a more practical manner. Trying on clothes can be a very emotional experience in the best of circumstances. When you are stretching your comfort zone it can be downright fraught. You want to be able to see beyond the emotions, so bring a camera and a friend. A camera can also take notes for you - take pictures of the labels for price, style, and fiber content. It's also helpful to take closeups of hard to see design or construction details.

These suggestions should help you to figure out if these pieces really will stretch your wardrobe. Eileen Fisher's pieces are very well cut, very very comfy, the fabrics droolingly exquisite. I would happily invite many of her items to stay in my closet! But i cannot afford $160 for a pencil skirt. The amazing wool knit wrap in the first picture in this post was almost $200 on deep deep discount. What are some ways to get this type of groove going in the closet at an investment i can realistically make?

Buy designer pieces on sale, with coupons, on consignment and on e-bay.  If you go this route, do your homework. Investigate as many different options as you can, because pricing is complicated and fluid and doesn't work in a 'sensible' way.For example: I went to Eileen Fisher's outlet thinking i would find great prices. I found many of last season's pieces at 25-50% off of retail. I found a fair selection of 'system' pieces (my main interest) but all were offered at full retail pricing. Fiddlesticks!

However, the next week i was at Macy's Broadway Plaza. Macy's was having a store-wide sale where everything was at least 20-30% off, and many pieces had a 25-40% price cut on top of the store wide discount. When the math was done, new 'system' pieces could be had for 60-70% of retail (or even less if you use a Macy's credit card, like Mr. E does). There was a nice selection of styles, sizes, and petites and plus offerings. Which just goes to show that you need to search search search to get your best price.

tunic from first pic, pencil skirt. silk jersey collapses against the body and packs beautifully.
Buy knock-offs. The key here is to educate yourself about the cut, construction, and fabric used in the designer pieces so that you can choose a good quality knock off. It makes no sense to buy a cheesy knock off just because it costs less money - if it doesn't fit and flatter, the fabric pills, and seams fall apart. I have seen pieces of good quality and really nice design offered at many price points. But you won't have the confidence to snap these pieces up if you aren't familiar with 'the real thing'. Again, do your homework by going to the originals, trying them on, feeling the fabric and investigating the seams and interfacing, and reading the fibre content labels.  Don't worry about taking up the sales people's time. Just tell them you love the label but you have a limited budget so you need to really take your time deciding what you can realistically buy. (If you tell them you're 'just looking' they may decide you're ripe for an impulse buy, so i have become leery of using that phrase.)

Pursue custom made. Even if you can afford designer retail prices, for around that amount of money you can have a piece custom made by a tailor or seamstress. This may be a great option if you have special fitting concerns, fabric preferences, etc.  And of course many women use Eileen Fisher's approach as inspiration for their own wardrobe sewing projects.

I've certainly learned a lot about wardrobe essentials/basics by studying Eileen Fisher's take on this concept. What is your experience with this part of the closet - do you find you appreciate and depend on your 'veggies', or are you so enamored by 'dessert' that you worry about becoming 'malnourished'?  In the last couple of months i've acquired a couple of pretty basic 'essentials' and i find myself practically living in them, especially when life gets hectic. This has confirmed the wisdom of my plan to head in this direction and focus on a core of basics before focusing on the fun pieces. What say you?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Who Needs Scott Schuman When You've Got AARP Magazine?

So, i'm housesitting for the patriarchal side of the family the other day. While in the, ahem, 'library' i'm riffling through the offerings for any new reading matter when suddenly i spy - My Girl Annie in the perfect look pour moi!  My heart grew warm as i reflected that my love of and success in translating her look was assured, as i'd already worn two takeoffs on it before spotting her version on the cover of AARP Magazine.

Photo by Rufen Afanador in AARP Magazine April/May 2012
 Back in July i'd fallen in love with the way my tiered skirt worked as a 'suit not a suit' with my animale duster. Creating these kind of  SNAS fits right in with my aspiration to repeat winning combinations, as i can stay with the 'suit' and change out tops, shoes, hats, and other accessories. I get the ease and sure fire flattery of repeating with the fun of remixing all at once. This inspired me to go searching in my closet for other undiscovered SNAS's. Turns out i had just completed one.
Photo by Rufen Afanador in AARP Magazine April/May 2012
During another house sitting soujourn i'd purchased lightweight linen on the spur of the moment to make another of these Elisita-inspired skirts. My first one is threadbare but i kept reaching for it in the heat, when my leg ached, when i wanted a dramatic silhouette. You've seen the copy already (in a tree), but it didn't take me long to see how wonderfully it pairs with this Peruvian Connection jacket from a few years ago. Bob was actually my great uncle, but style is no time to get mired in technicalities.

I've had an affinity for The Annie Hall Style since high school, and can't count how many times people have told me i put them in mind of that look. I always appreciated the compliments, however in the heyday of that style i never felt comfortable with copying the look wholesale. And not just because i'm not the type of person who copies looks wholesale. My style has never had that much of an emphasis on men's wear, i prefer a more structured and waist defining silhouette, and i liked to combine vintage with modern pieces as well as antique references (like panniers).

With the passage of time, it seems Ms. Keaton has come around. We've always both loved hats, and covering up. In the April/May 2012 AARP article David Hochman comments about Ms. Keaton's trademark black turtlenecks. He especially admires the way the one she's wearing has very long sleeves with little thumb loops so they cover part of the hands. "At my age," Ms. Keaton smiles, "I try to hide anything I can."  Ha! No one is noticing how covered up she is, they're noticing how cool those sleeves are and wondering where they can get their own and if they could carry them off!

Other elements of Ms. Keaton's looks that i love? The neutral palettes, the shorter, structured, old-fashioned jacket over a voluminous skirt, the scarf/hat/glasses trio and the rugged touches of belt and boots. How i adore any outfit which is dressed up, feminine, old fashioned yet looks like you could hike several miles in it with little trouble. Be still my heart.

Newscom photo
 This on the street shot shows a wonderful look and a canny strategy for getting dressed. You only notice the gorgeous coat, amazing belt, flats, hat and scarf - the leggings and whatever else is under there makes no difference. (In the picture she looks like she is walking her children to or from school.) For all we know she slept in those leggings and a tank, threw on the rest and she's out the door looking pulled together and chic. Smart smart smart for busy mornings.

 And smart is what i love about Ms. Keaton most. Her very unique mind. Now is where i would, in a perfect world, link you to a podcast of the talk Ms. Keaton gave to City Arts and Lectures in SF about her documentary on her mother. Ms. Keaton's mother died after a long time with Alzheimer's disease, and Ms. Keaton's talk about her in -progress film on this topic was warm, thoughtful, insightful, inspiring, and very moving. You don't hear celebrities being this open about their pedicures, much less intimate family relationships. Sadly City Arts and Lectures doesn't have the rights or resources to produce tapes, transcripts, or podcasts. And i didn't even make a bootleg!!!!

Photo by Rufen Afanador in AARP Magazine April/May 2012

Here's a  Google search on Diane Keaton interviews. The two-parter with Oprah is charming and has some great comments on plastic surgery (she sounds just like Mr. E in both her mixed feelings and how funny she is about it). But nothing like her talking about the non-celeb stuff with an intelligent, prepared interviewer for an hour. Sigh. At the same time, it's wonderful and very refreshing to see a 'Celebrity Movie Actress' with a wattly neck and jowly jaws who doesn't obsess about it and looks beautiful and out of this world stylish.

On a personal note:
Whew! I've had nought to say the last few weeks, no ideas whatsoever. Thus no posts. My husband recently began a new job. Prior to this job, at his previous employers, he spent about two and a half years waiting to be laid off. You prepare as best you can for whatever contingencies you can think of. And then you wait.

T.'s finding a new position and getting settled in has been a huge relief. I hadn't realized the strain of always being ready to be in the proper frame of mind and emotion when the axe fell. There is also the feeling of suspended animation, which leads to hesitation to fully live, even in areas of life where that makes no sense.

Fortunately i feel both of us got over the 'suspended animation' habit. There's no need to not live your life because of major uncertainties -after all, any life can fall apart in a matter of minutes at any time.  But moving on from living always under threat brought about a deeper relaxation than i'd allowed myself in years, and for a few weeks impressions and ideas have flowed in, not out.

I also realize, once again, how fortunate i am to have a husband who i can respect so deeply for his hard work, intelligence, and willingness to do very well whatever needs to be done, no matter how it goes against his innate personality.  Selling yourself on the open market is difficult for anyone. For the shy, deeply thoughtful, absolutely honest and perfectionist person it is excruciating. None of this stopped him, which is incredibly admirable. His good lucks, Irish charm, Sicilian style, and utter hilarity are merely the icing on the cake.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Rivertown Revival: Stripes!

Round Two of Rivertown Revival pictures! (Click here for post numero uno.) I echoed the predominant vibe and wore a couple of everyday pieces. I did don some different undergarments in order to change the silhouette and make the look more vintage/festive. I wore a  bulky petticoat, small bustle, and strapless, plunge-backed corset-bra. This had the added attraction of showing lots of shoulder when my top's strap fell down. Who knows why, but baring my shoulders always feels much cooler than even adding 1/2" wide bra straps. My socks are indeed striped in white and light grey, more visible in the sock on your left. I wasn't game enough to wear them pulled up in 100F.

I took almost all of these pictures with a very wide lens pointed in the general direction of the subject. No asking 'May I?' and no posing. This increased my number of possible subjects, since i don't move fast enough to catch up with people on the go. Also, i took some pictures like this one, which catch a certain flavor of the event in an abstract and unexpected way. The awesome take on the 'Double R' logo, workboots, lace, and stripes all set against a sea of hay capture the essence of the day in the way a posed portrait does not.

This guy looks like he dug out his favorite trousers from 1969 for the occasion. See what you could be missing a couple of decades from now if you insist on regular and ruthless closet purging? His friend has gorgeous hair and a fetching smile, and created a perfect look for the day without, i dare say, spending a dime.

Stripes, corsets, and various hats popped up all over the RR. But these red patent platform lace up boots were the only glam-rock reference to Ziggy Stardust i spotted all day long.

RR has a very nice wedding garden where you can trade non-binding vows with the partner of your choice. Here you get a peek at the lovely decor, the live music, and the officiant. The wedding garden had very nice shady seating - ahhhh........

Another couple who got into the mood with a minimum of fun, using a maximum of creative thinkin'. Check out the wallet-belt, and those boots! Those fairy skirts were very popular with little girls - they were like little moving chinese lanterns or crepe decor, adding color and magic wherever they went.

These two girls were so cute! And the striped hat grounds an outfit which looks like it could float away with a strong breeze. I saw a few gal couples dressed as girl/boy. In one case the 'newspaper boy' walked a corseted steampunk bride to the wedding garden altar.

In the left background you can see the photo booth.  In the photo booth you could pose for four pictures (taken by a professional photographer). Afterwards, they posted the photos at the RR website, where you (or your mom or...) can purchase the photos online or simply gaze in awe. The booth had a few props, courtesy of Petaluma store Heebe Jeebe. (Heebe Jeebe's booth at RR was attended by the tattoo lady from last post.)

I saw this woman in the ticket line as we entered the festival. I drooled over her look (Beige! Linen! Cobwebby Victoriana! Eccentric doo-dads!). Politely as i could, i told her of my admiration of her sartorial skillz and asked if i could take her picture. She fumbled and mumbled and skittered away from the camera lens, finally agreeing to a visual record of our encounter as long as i did not post the result on Facebook.

Her nervous demeanor affected my own, indeed her last line caused me to laugh inappropriately and try to convey to her my situation - she was safe as could be, as around 65% of the time i cannot even log onto my pitifully inactive facebook account. As she'd knocked me off my composure, and kept on walking, i could only catch a couple of snaps as she strode off to pilot a steampowered blimp.

And so we bid RR adieu. Here's to all of us having a happy, festive weekend!