Friday, January 27, 2012

Back To Nature

 Ah, my faithful readers. Sometimes we humans find ourselves swept up in events which take place on a scale beyond the mere personal and individual. A huge solar storm sends pulses of unimaginable radiation surging through cosmic space, playing with our usually reliable technologies. Magma heaves and wrests itself free from the mantle of the earth, creating a new sliver of paradise. Arctic fronts slam into the living body of a continent, destroying fortunes and rending families.

Or sometimes your husband decides his considered plan for moving the household towards better communication technology at lower long term cost involves no DSL for a  month. Keeping up with blogs and so on is doable, if a pain, with the smart phone. But input is pure aggravation.

Please excuse any lack of response or new posts on my part during this brief hiatus. In case of emergency, send me an e-mail and i'll give you my phone # - we have unlimited minutes!

This post made possible by the generosity of my parents. Thank you!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

True Confessions

I wore this jacket for this first time in months a few days ago. It's made of coat-weight wool, so very warm. We're having a colder and drier than usual winter here in the SF Bay Area, and i fear i still haven't adjusted to dressing as nattily as i might. This tends to involve wearing wool tights, layered knit tops, etc. I have to think out the mechanics of what i'm going to put on before i start, or it's a true hassle to start over. And it's more likely to bother my leg.

Which means that wearing a sweatshirt and super stretchy jeans is easy and comfortable. But i cannot argue that it will set the style world on fire! At least i got a couple of new sweatshirts in bright colors (hot pink and lime citron) to wear instead of my standby heather grey. But really! It's kind of boring, and what's more as a style blogger it's mortifying.

Yesterday i spent a few minutes creating a folder of knock-out looks i've worn the last few months. I was pleasantly surprised! I'm contemplating doing a little 'shop your closet' sketch of some outfits as well, if i can set aside the time. I can't recall ever doing this before, so it will be fun to try something new and will be good experience generally. One way or another i need to put a little more effort into dressing or i'll be askeert to leave the house!

I enjoyed this outfit a lot. I love the boxiness of this blouse because it's counteracted by the flowing drape of the fabric. I decided to play off the boxy shape and my straight shoulders by creating a line from the shoulders straight down to my feet. What was even more fun was the presto-chango way i created a whole new silhouette just by tossing on this jacket! I so enjoy playing with shape and this outfit just tickled my fancy no end.

I'm also wearing my new watch. My trusty old Fossil is eating batteries in just a few months, which i fear is signaling the end. I wondered why i was so antsy for a new watch - when i sat down and thought it out, i've been wearing my old one about twenty years! I really liked Fossil's 'Stella' watches, but how happy was i when i found this one - my favorite low contrast beige and about one third the cost.

Are any of you still thrashing around with the seasonal transition - more than half way through January? New, fun things are happening here wardrobe-wise, but i'm scattered about it, nowhere near focused in taking advantage of these new energies and things. I feel kind of embarrassed about this, but what can we do but admit where we are.  Any advice gratefully accepted!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Printed Wide Leg Pants and Hope For The Non-Photogenic

Whew! I am happy to say that my recent rhinovirus didn't irritate my asthma. However, i've had to take a lot more rest than usual & i'm thus a little behind. I started a thread over at the You Look Fab forum and thought you might get a little inspiration and a nice chuckle from it.  Quoting myself:

The response to Angie's post on printed wide leg pants today seems to point to this fad dying a short, painful death. I, like a few others on the forum, wore this style in the 1990's. I enjoyed the comfort and the feminine feel - a similar vibe to a skirt. I only had 2 pair, as the cut, print, and drape varied so much and it was hard to find ones i liked.

In the first pic i'm wearing rayon floral pants with a denim shirt tied at hi-hip and a 1940's navy wool crepe jacket. Yes, that is a fuschia alligator clip in my hair - in my defense, i was not going out! The year was around 1995 and i wore dark brown booties with this outfit. Pic two gives you a look at the straw boater with navy grosgrain ribbon that i loved to wear with these pants, as well as the interior of my 1974 Dodge Dart. It was actually a pretty cute outfit, but the pic does not reflect that at all.

In short, what made printed wide leg pants work for me was adding structure (jacket, hat) and a little toughness (denim shirt). I believe this formula would still work today (provided i could find a pair i liked ;)
As to topic two, pic one is about how i look in your average snapshot. I'm over 15 years younger in that pic and even looking at my youthful form i can't say that pic is all that flattering. But i have since learned how to pose, where to place the camera, a couple of makeup tricks and now i can come across as less disheveled and goofy, at least!

To illustrate, Pic 3 is me in the same jacket in a 'going out' outfit (original post here). Pic 4 is without the jacket. I'm older but i have learned to take better pictures. Folks who know me say that generally i don't look as ridiculous in real life as i can come across in snapshots. I think my blog photos look a little *better* than i do in real life, or maybe me on a good day.

Which may not be brutally objective - but what can i say, i come from a long line of very vain women!

Anyways, i know some of you think you are also not very photogenic and i wanted to let you know that you can learn how to take pictures of yourself that you feel better about. I understand not wanting to go hog-wild with 'improving' every little thing. At the same time, you don't want to be so bothered by how you look that you avoid the camera and it's benefits.

I hope this gives you some encouragement if you could use it! Happy Friday!

Monday, January 9, 2012


......are living in my rhino! Thankfully they seem to be on the wane, but i've been a sleeping vegetable the last 44 hours. The main blogging-related thoughts i've had during this time have been, "Why does my hair have to look so cute when i'm too much of a slug to take any pictures?" Deep thinking? Not so much :)

But i did do some mindless web surfing, so i'll point you to a couple of interesting links. First, re: this outfit - a hat always makes you more visible. I tossed this one on since my hair was filthy, as mom likes to say,"The bugs were jumping off of it!" It actually makes the look, showing that bad behaviour is sometimes rewarded. I'm also starting to really get the hang of wearing this jacket, something i'm very happy about. I had even considered giving it away a week before this look. I've often found that deep frustration and dissatisfaction comes right before a creative breakthrough - does this happen to you?

On to some links. The morning before i took to the bed i read this awesome 'Quality Checklist' by Amy of Quixotic Pixels. I got so inspired i went straight to Mr. E's closet, grabbed an offending tee, and started taking pictures so i could add to the list! Add any items we missed in the comments and i'll edit this post to include them.

I need to replace some panties. I have about six nylon lace Victoria's Secret pair which have performed yeoman's service for around eight years and shown no wear whatsoever until now. I bought some Target house brand pair a couple of years ago - the cotton boyshorts with lace trim have held up brilliantly (discontinued), but the lace on a few bikinis is just getting ratty and accumulating all type of strange linty-pills. ewww.

I've been drawn towards briefs or 'granny chic' undies for a while. They show less under a lot of outfits, and i like the cut better just alone - the lower leg looks good and a waist just under the navel minimizes my tummy.  The Skimp Skamp brief apparently has a massive, loyal following (including MEN), and i've decided to buy a pair or two and try them out. I've found that nylon/spandex is very comfy to wear, lasts like iron given proper care, and is most flattering under clothing. Cotton undies kind of stick and pull under cotton pants or skirts, which can get uncomfortable as well as look weird. The Skimp Skamps fit these criteria, and with so many great reviews it's a natural to start there.

I also like to have a few lacy, colorful pair in my lingerie drawer.  J.C.Penney's house line 'Ambrielle' has a lot of really fun, wild panties at reasonable prices.  Check out these in 'Leopard Shadow'! The reviews are good, so i'll check these out as well. Do you have any "Holy Grail" knickers you'd like to share with us?

With all this panty-surfing, i happened upon the blog of HerRoom founder Tomima Edmark. What a fount of wisdom! If you have any burning questions regarding 'small clothes', do a search on her blog. How to shop for a bra that keeps your nipples from 'pointing east and west', proper laundering of lingerie, are you pulling your panties up too high.....this lady blew my socks off!!! Let's face it, the internet makes it incredibly easy for any old blowhard to set themselves up as some fantastic 'expert'. But it also makes it possible for people who are the real deal to get valuable information out to us regular slobs. This lady is the real deal!!!

Phew, i'm ready for a nap! Hope you enjoy your day, and don't forget to visit Visible Monday!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Legs Legs Legs

Well, i wore my "Olive Cocktail" dress for our traditional New Year's Eve outing to Cesar's. You have seen that dress plenty of times, and it got me thinking about a fun or different way to photograph the outfit. Since i spent most of the time seated, i took the logical route.

Looking at the pictures i couldn't help but notice how twisty my legs look! And after the first couple of shots i found it so distracting that i quite consciously attempted to 'straighten' them out while posing. No luck. I do see models with similar very curvy legs now and then, though on the whole the industry seems to prefer straighter, more angular gams. After taking and scrutinizing so many pictures of myself it's a kick to see  something new!

Cesar was founded by Alice Waters' ex-husband and is located right next door to the legendary Chez Panisse (at one point i saw Mr. Cesar retrieving, then later returning, an extra chair from chez next door). The hostess seated us right next to the front window where we could see all the happenings on the street - the limos pulling up to pick up people after their haute cuisine repast, the disappointed would-be Chez Panisse patrons who neglected to make a reservation, the panhandlers, the neighborhood denizens giving poochie his evening constitutional. Combined with the view behind the bar, we enjoyed entertainment galore!

I'm chuffed that these pictures finally convey some of the charm of this Peruvian Connection sweater.  Most of the time it just comes across as a black crew neck cardi (yawn.....). But in reality it's composed of several wonderful stitches witih plenty of openwork in various designs. And can you beat the zig - zag edging on the hems!

Mr. Cesar likes to make the lovely co-eds of UC Berkeley feel very welcome at his establishment, and they return the favor with sequined miniskirts, metallic bustiers, lurexed spandex. I have to say i felt a wee bit dowdy and out of place there off and on, with my cotton stockings, button up cardigan, and leg-enveloping skirt. As i was fanning myself our host stopped by to top off our drinks, remarking, "I love your fan - it seems so southern!"

I didn't have the heart to tell him it was menopause. The odd thing about my vague discomfort is that most of the people frequenting this establishment are my age or older, mostly locals with intellectual/artistic/cultural interests.  In other words, not all that different from me. Do you ever feel out of place at places where you can't really see any 'rational reason' for that feeling? I don't think my feeling had that much to do with style or dress, but i'm curious what you think anyway!

Little Old Lady Cardi: Peruvian
Belt : Betsey Johnson
Dress: Nine West From Krasa in Berkeley
Socks: Sock Dreams
Shoes: Clark's
Necklace: gift (thank you mom!)
Location: Cesar on Shattuck in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto (no longer affiliated with barcesar on Piedmont in Oakland)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

eShakti: A Unique Design Vision

 As we begin a new year, i am happy to unveil a Dashing Eccentric first - product review! The beautiful, perfectly fitting Singing In The Rain dress swanned into my armoire courtesy of eShakti's made to measure service. When their rep contacted me about doing a review i was very excited about the prospect. As my first product review, it involved plenty of work, pushed my photography skills to the max, and even entailed a bit of soul-searching. At the end of the process, what is the bottom line? eShakti deserves a prominent place in the resource directory of any woman who wants perfect fit, a small and flexible wardrobe, utterly unique pieces, and who sees the wisdom of putting time and thought into creating her wardrobe. That sounds a lot like The Dashing Eccentric readers to me.

eShakti embodies the opposite of 'fast fashion'. eShakti is well known for the wide range of customization services they offer at low prices. You can start with a sleeveless, mid-knee length dress and alter it to include elbow length sleeves and below the knee hem for the grand total of an additional $7.50. According to Kendall Farr, in The Pocket Stylist, simply hemming a typical skirt averages $15.00 and up. Of course, this doesn't take into consideration the impossibility of lengthening hems or sleeves in ready to wear or vintage items, or the additional options eShakti makes available to its customers.

eShakti  also offers made to measure clothing. This means the pattern for the garment is altered to your particular measurements before the fabric is cut. I reviewed this option with the Singing In The Rain dress, and let me tell you i was floored. New readers may not be aware that i have sewn clothing for myself and others on a regular basis for about 35 years. Part of what has kept me sewing all these years is the aggravating  impossibility of finding decently fitting clothing off the rack. I hope that anything you see me wear on this blog fits well. Which is why all of it has either been altered or sewn from scratch by me - with the single exception of this eShakti dress. I followed the clear instructions on where and how to take my measurements), and clicked the 'send' button. About ten days later, i popped the dress over my head and boggled at my reflection. All of that great, flattering fit! And none of the usual work.

As Kendall Farr puts it, 

"The universal truth about women with great personal style is that their clothes really fit; fit to create the longest, smoothest, optimum unbroken line. This is the key........You really don't need a lot to create a great wardrobe. But everything that hangs in your closet should fit, or it is money wasted."

I cannot think of anything more to say. Hemming and taking in the waist a bit can do a lot for a garment, but more extensive alterations are very difficult to pull off without destroying the line of the garment. Creating a garment made to fit you from the start will give the very best results, and eShakti offers you this opportunity at great convenience and phenomenal cost.

 A company offering this level of customization for, say, a dozen classic pieces would be quite a find. But eShakti takes things even farther, in a direction especially intriguing to ladies with small wardrobes. The fewer items of clothing you have, the more you'll wear each individual piece. In this situation, ideally each piece will have maximum styling flexibility. You fantasize about a very special type of garment, one that can play the 'heroine' of an outfit one day, and harmoniously sing in the chorus the next. Pieces that can play a very convincing diva, then win an Oscar for their performance as 'the best friend' a few days later. I have no clue why this type of garment has no catchy name (maybe "Team Player Diva"?), because they are a godsend to small wardrobe connisseurs.

The eShakti design team excels in creating just these type of garments. Wear the Singing In The Rain dress with a few girly accessories: instant bombshell. Toss on a denim jacket and boots, and it's a completely convincing casual day dress. Throw on the floral embroidered tunic with denim and a beret and it's a flattering casual top. But with a silk skirt it packs plenty of drama to create a stunning evening look. As you shop the eShakti website, keep the concept of styling flexibility in mind. It's one thing to be able to create three casual looks with one piece, quite another when that piece plays a crucial role in casual and dressy ensembles. Click through to examine the subtle details which don't come through in the thumbnail pictures. It's often these details which you can bring out through styling to add drama and excitement to bring to life a special occasion outfit.

In short, eShakti's design vision rocks my world! On to customer service. The website is easy to navigate, presenting accurate and helpful information about the clothing and the various available customizations in an easy to understand format. The instructions for taking measurements are the best around, bar none.  The one problem i ran into was very respectfully and generously resolved.  Upon receipt i discovered that the hem of my dress was faulty.* I notified my rep within a day of receipt, and she quite reasonably requested 24 hours to find out what was up. I let her know that was fine - and didn't hear anything for almost a week. Needless to say, this made me very nervous.  But at that point i received an e-mail from my rep, politely inquiring if i had had enough time to consider their offer re: the dress. It turns out her earlier e-mail was lost in the web, and when she re-sent it i was delighted to see their offer of a new item of my choice. This allowed me to choose the black floral embroidered tunic and review their off the rack wares as well as their custom product (and not worry about the hassle of a return).

If i had purchased the dress from eShakti  i would have contacted them in a day or so of the 24 hour window to inquire. But since this was a review, i felt an obligation to be very cautious about pushing anything along - i wanted to keep my loyalties strictly with my readers. I include this incident in the spirit of full disclosure, and welcome any thoughts you have about how i handled this. The only other less-than-spectacular aspect of my interaction with eShakti involved the package containing the  black floral embroidered tunic. I noticed a strong chemical odor when i opened it. I soaked the tunic (in baking soda and unscented detergent), ran it through the gentle cycle, and all traces of any scent were gone. I've worn this tunic several times since, even while working up a 'glow', and the tunic has remained entirely odor-free. Again, in the end it was a non-issue. But i have friends and family with very sensitive noses, and i know they would appreciate this information.

 The upshot of these two quibbles? First, when you are ordering custom, made to measure clothing it may take more time and effort than, say, picking up a pair of sweats down at the mall's latest fast fashion emporium.  Two, your mother was right -wash any new clothing before you wear it! Both of which ideas which should be obvious on their face, really. And finally, my concern for maintaining honesty and transparency with my readers borders on the obsessive. I know that different people have very different concerns, i prefer to give you as much information as i can.

In closing, i encourage each and every one of you to take a serious look at eShakti's offerings.  You may not be looking for any of their offerings right this second, but having an overview of their products and services will come in handy in future - when you can't find a well-fitting pair of black dress pants for work, when there's not. one. single. dress. with sleeves in the entire mall, when you want to dip a toe into a current trend without coming across like a fashion victim. If you are committed to acquiring beautiful, quality garments with exquisite fit that flatter your body and pique your creativity; if you find that off the rack fashion never quite fits; if you have a small wardrobe and every piece needs to play more than one role convincingly; if you can wear standard sizes but are looking for special and unique pieces at great prices; if you want to look on-trend without being trendy - ladies with any, some, or all of these goals will find their time exceptionally well-spent at eShakti.

eShakti website
eShakti Facebook page
eShakti on Twitter

Singing In the Rain Dress

Black Floral Embroidered Tunic

Many thanks to eShakti for making this post possible by providing both featured items as compensation for this review.

Thank you to the "S" family for letting me commandeer their lovely tree for a location shot - Happy Holidays!

* i have yet to alter the hem, i simply posed to hide the flaw.