Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Non-handbag handbags

I have noticed several innovative babes carting their personal affects in things that were not made with the express purpose of existing as handbags, such as small pieces of luggage and work portfolios.

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...or, if you are feeling daring and a.) never drop things and b.) never carry tampons, then you could even try a basket:

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(All photos courtesy of Face Hunter and Hel-Looks)

I am intrigued. What could I do but do an eBay search for vintage items-that-are-not-actually-handbags-but-could-be?

Vintage carry-on luggage
Pro: You'll look like a jet-setter.
Con: Tricky to open on the fly.


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Vintage doctor's bags
Pro: There is a special slot for your scalpel.
Con: You do not actually have a scalpel.


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Vintage bowling bags
Pro: The shoe compartment means you can stash a pair of emergency flats for times when heels turn your feet into bloody stumps.
Con: Virtually no compartments for anything else.


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Vintage lunch boxes
Pro: According to studies, having an accessory that features a kitschy animated character triples the quantity of your friends.
Con: Bullies will try to steal your dunkaroos.


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Monday, April 28, 2008

Guten Tag

I have been tagged a few times, so I will lump them together into one mighty tag post.

First, I was tagged by Fazed-Girl and Fashionability.

Here are the rules:
1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules in your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged bloggers' blogs letting them know they've been tagged.

Six quirks, eh? Let's see here.

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I am not a terribly musical person. Music has just never moved me the way that literature, theatre or visual art do. I guess I am not stimulated by something that relies solely on listening. I am, however, rather enamoured by showtunes - not classic ones, but the obscure and irrelevant. I think it is because I can imagine a scene playing in my head while I lip synch passionately into my hairbrush.

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I really love Nerds candy. I always buy the rainbow pack to put into my candy dish, but I only eat one color at a time. I pick them out one by one to make little monochrome piles in my palm. It is actually very tedious.

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I can pop my own ears at will. I never really realized other people couldn't do this until I got into some conversation about it one day. I do it when I am bored, how some people may fidget or twiddle their thumbs. I like the clicking sound.

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I really, really love "Full House." I used to watch it when I was little, so when the re-runs started popping up on Nick at Nite and ABC Family a few years ago, I tuned in for old time's sake purely ironically to enjoy the corniness of it. I kept doing it, and gradually the act lost its irony. I legitimately enjoy it now. Also, Aunt Becky and Uncle Jesse win my vote for most attractive TV couple in history. Try to think of a more attractive one. I dare you. It simply cannot be done.

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I use the word "lovely" entirely too much, in writing and conversation. It can describe anything. I love it. The image above was found in a Google image search of the word 'lovely.' Ironically, it is an example of something that is not lovely.

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I am a college student and thus spend plenty of time at my school library. It is one of the only places I don't get hopelessly distracted. A lot of people deem the library a great place to nap. I judge these people. I think there is something woefully inappropriate and silly about sleeping in the library. It is not a place to snooze. I especially judge the people who stretch themselves out across one or more pieces of furniture to do this. Hombre, what are you doing?

Tags two and three come from The Clothes Horse.

First, a few "five things" lists.

5 Things found in my bag: Because this survey differentiates my 'bag' from my 'purse,' I will take 'bag' to mean my school bag. Thus, my five things are textbooks, notebooks, folders, pens and a plastic travelling cup which I use to steal coffee from campus. Usually you buy a cup at the counter and then walk about 20 feet to the actual coffee pots. I justify my devious activity by the environmentally unfriendly sale of paper cups and the exhorbitant cost of tuition.
5 Things found in my purse: several tubes of chapstick, lip gloss and lipstick, my iPod, my keys, altoids and my cell phone. Doesn't get any more generic than that, does it?
5 Favorite Things in my room: my clothes, my sewing pile (comprised mostly of thrifted wares I plan to alter,) my lamp for reading in bed, my personalized stationery and my framed photos of Audrey Hepburn and the famous photo of the sailor kissing the nurse on VJ Day (my very favorite photo.)
5 Things I've always wanted to do: learn as many languages as I can, get a play published or performed, go to a ball, get around to reading War and Peace, and maintain an effective gym regimen (actually, I've done this for a period of a day or two hundreds of times.)
5 Things I'm currently into: my imminent graduation, women and Islam, "what will Putin do next?", dried papaya chunks and hating Henry David Thoreau
And 5 Impressions on The Clothes Horse (who tagged me): She knows how to rock a vest, she is a lovely writer, she is a talented artist (she even designed her own tattoo and doodled a fantastic pattern on a pair of tights,) she has a interesting interest (what?) in world cultures and, judging from her personal posts is a very unique and cool person (if we went to college together, I'd totally try and befriend her.)

Finally, tag three: I was tagged by The Clothes Horse again, but this tag originates at Stylish Wanderer. It entails:
1. Think of something we have to say for this decade. Weather its photography, runway, style or whatever. Something that is new to say for the world for the past 10 years.
2. Post it on your blog.
3. Tag 6 people and let them know on their blog


Alrighty. Clearly I am going to stab this from a style perspective. I think our generation has actually detrimented fashion quite a bit. Ours is the first generation that deems it acceptable to spend an entire day in outfits which previous generations would have dubbed 'indoor attire.'

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(Note: Tell me the couple modelling the pajamas is not hilarious.)

Indeed, our generation is so very casual. Previously, people dressed with a touch of formality when venturing into the light of day. I am not calling for a return to the three-piece suit and hat, but I would like to see people dress a little more nicely in general - it just seems respectful. It tells the people with whom you associate that they are significant enough to merit something without an elastic waist.

Wow, that was long-winded! These people may choose to do zero, one, two or all three tags, depending on their motivation and whether or not they've done them. Okey doke:
Style Symmetry
The Fancier
Hipster Musings
Asian Cajuns
Thriftaholic: a Tale of Two Addicts
A Side Order of Style

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sensory overload

Once when I was about four years old, I decided that I could cook. Moreover, I figured that I could improvise a recipe on the fly. I snuck into the kitchen, climbed onto the counter, grabbed the biggest mixing bowl I could find, and set out to create a dish which I decided to name "yummy goody."

Having little appreciation for the art of juxtaposition, I loaded my bowl with whatever I could find: handfuls of chocolate chips, flour, milk, pretzels, a few spoonfuls of jelly, Molly McButter and pepper. Probably over ten ingredients in all. I stirred it all up until it looked like a bowl of clumpy phlegm. Then I actually tasted the stuff. It was not delicious.

These pumps by Steve Madden actually remind me a bit of yummy goody.

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Nothing says "KJDHFSOIUDF!" quite like this shoes.

Life in black and white

I wasn't feeling too creative today, but I did want to wear my new dress. I got it for super cheap on eBay, which barely ever happens anymore. The photos of it were so poor that I almost passed it up myself, but then decided to enter a low bid just in case. I won, and the dress is so much better in person. That is my favorite eBay cheat - find the auctions with the poorly written pages (my friend once won a vintage dres!) and bad photos, and use your powers of deduction.

colorless

Headband: H&M
Vintage 60s dress: eBay
Tights: Target
Brogues: Wal-Mart

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sacre Bill!

This article, which appeared last week in the New York Times, discusses a bill which has been approved by France's lower house of Parliament aimed at cracking down on media outlets "that promote eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia." Specifically, the language of the bill indicts any fragment of the mass media, including magazines, television, and websites that may “provoke a person to seek excessive weight loss by encouraging prolonged nutritional deprivation that would have the effect of exposing them to risk of death or endangering health.” Though the article itself focuses on pro-anorexia and bulimia websites as the primary target of the legislators, the bill's language is broad enough to encompass a wide range of imagery that celebrates thinness.

This is not a new issue - the last country in the spotlight for its legislative actions against the glorification of eating disorders was Spain, which banned models with a BMI of under 18 from the catwalks. Pro-eating disorder websites have also been a topic of media scrutiny in the US and abroad. The debate about thin models and their effect on young girls could not be more visible within pop culture.

Of course the proliferation of eating disorders is a huge social concern. I feel terrible that so many young girls are entrenched in a culture that at least somewhat contributes to their disease. Still, I question the utility of legislative measures to combat the presence of thinness.

Banning thin runway models from the catwalks seems silly to me. Indeed, I have little love for the models of today. In fact, I think most of them look like corpses and are not half as enchanting as the models of yesterday. Still, my opinion about the bill has nothing to do with my feelings about the aesthetic pleasantness of these women. If the bill is intended to shield young girls (indeed, teenagers are the primary at-risk group for eating disorders,) then those who pass it should be quite certain that a significant amount of influence eminates from the weight of runway models. With only a few exceptions, though, the era of the super runway model has drawn to a close. It seems as if designers want to be the stars of their own shows and wish to usurp no glory to a Cindy Crawford or Naomi Campbell. Thus, the models who appear on the runways are known quite little amongst those who do not harbor an interest in fashion. Have you ever heard a 14-year old lament that "If only I looked like Carolina Pantoliano, maybe then I could marry ZAC EFRON!" Instead, the images that promote unattainable body types are more visible (and indeed, physically healthier,) than runway models - actresses, musicians, the list goes on...

Furthermore, I am uncomfortable with the vagueness of the language guiding this bill. It could be easily manipulated to be applied to many instances, and causality is difficult to prove. It does not comment on gradation or intent of thin imagery, nor does it suggest a clear ascription of liability (writer, or webmaster?)

Ultimately, I would argue that images of the McDonalds golden arches are far more damaging to society than a thin runway model or someone's website which provides tips about how to purge. The media is not a static actor - it is created and fueled by the society in which it is rooted. I am not sure how exactly negative body images among teens can be counteracted, but I am highly cynical about this avenue.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The perfect storm

The title is a double entendre...not only do I have oodles of work to do, but it is also supposed to storm. On the plus side, my friends and I are going to a bar tonight that is holding a special for unlimited beer and pizza for $5. So tomorrow, I'll have to wear a camping tent.

the perfect storm

Headband: Charlotte Russe
Red 70s earrings: from my aunt
Blue scarf: from my grandma
Yellow 70s sweater: rummage sale
Black courdoroy jumper: thrifted
Red knit skirt: thrifted
Blue tights: Target
Brogues: Wal-Mart

I will not forget my umbrella this time...

EDIT FROM CAMPUS: Crap. I forgot my umbrella.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I loooove the flower girl

The weather is supposed to fluctuate by 20 degrees today. It is still chilly now, but I'll be inside for most of the day. I am off to xerox 20 pages of a memoir by the 1948 Yugoslav ambassador to the USSR for a paper. Don't fret, I bet you'll have the opportunity to do that soon.

My dress was my former roommate's. It didn't fit her right, so I traded her a skirt that didn't fit me right. So, I guess it's good we're friends.

full flowers

Headband: H&M
Tank under dress: Old Navy
Dress: swap with roommate
Belt: rummage sale
Grey tights: H&M
Velvety mary janes: Old Navy

Though, I doubt I'll walk around all day holding my skirt up at the sides to show everyone the volume. Here's what I'll look like in that case (although I'll probably be walking, and I won't maintain the staged smile all day.)

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lazy chic

I am off to campus for class and some work, but I graduate in less than two months and am feeling less motivated than I ever have in recent memory. I am still getting good grades, but I am pretty much doing the bare minimum to get the 'A' and then forgetting about it. I hope senioritis doesn't come with open sores or wheezing.

This blue trapeze dress is an unexpected favorite of mine. It was a total impulse buy during a lunch break a few months ago, which rarely makes the transition into wardrobe elite. This dress is so easy and fun - it is a solid color and gives me plenty of wiggle room (ie. it is forgiving of my few extra winter pounds.) So many of my things are patterned and harder to accessorize...I am definitely on the hunt for cute solids.

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Purple beret: a flea market in Paris
Vintage silk scarf: from my grandma
Black turtleneck: thrifted
Blue trapeze dress: H&M
Black tights: Target
Yellow knee socks: Forever21
Patent mary-jane pumps: Payless

...and, as always, I was torn about facial expression and pose.

slacking off is the new black

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The boogeymen of fashion

I was interested to come across this article from the Times of India, which chronicles many of the threats fashion may pose to one's health. I'd thought I'd respond, because, well, I am a scientist. A really important one. I have one the Nobel Prize four times and I am a Professor Emeritus at MIT.

The fashion culprits here are the common ones, but I can't help but feel that the article could be a bit of an exaggeration. Here are some excerpts.

On skinny jeans:

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According to Dr Abraham, problems could be as varied as tight, skinny jeans causing blockage of pores and leading to infections around the waist and thighs to full blown hair loss and damage due to frequent changes in hair colour, texture or even hair attachments...Bone doctors say, wearing tight pants also limits the mobility of hip joints and adversely affects the spine. Medical studies show that "a too-tight waist constricts the abdominal area filled with vital organs, causing problems such as reduced lymph flow from the pelvis, improper immune system function and poor circulation."

...My word, just how tight are these hypothetical pants? Unless their fit begs the comparison to a tourniquet, noose, or the jaws of an aggrieved pit bull, I think Dr. Abraham may be overreaching here. The pants he seems to be describing would make a lady's midsection look like the top of a tube of go-gurt.

On oversized handbags:

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Says Dr Madhavi Gunasheela, a specialist in rehabilitation medicine, "Carrying heavy shoulder bags can cause both acute and chronic injuries. The shoulder strap can directly compress on the clavicle or the collar bone and other muscles in the region. Excess load borne on one side could also lead to tilting of the body to that side with associated postural problems. These altered biomechanics can change the gait and produce hip and knee problems in the long run."

...I can see why this would be a compelling argument were it in regard to backpacks or bookbags, which can indeed get very heavy. Indeed, 20th Century history is probably quite detrimental to my clavicle. But handbags? I daresay that the heaviest thing in my purse is my wallet. I wish that was heavy enough to cause long-term muscle damage, because I'd be able to afford the medical treatment. And a treehouse made of Rolexes.

On high heels:

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Researchers link high heels and knee osteoarthritis, a painful, degenerative joint disease, characterised by the breakdown of the cartilage surrounding the knee. Doctors now advise that low-heeled shoe or no heels as woman's safest bet against osteo-arthritic knees. Those in the glamour industry have no choice but others have to be careful.

Note: As a fashion blogger and human being I cannot endorse the wearing of the particular shoes pictured above.

Out of the many items this article indicts, it seems to me that high heels are probably the most dangerous. But are they as threatening as they seem here? I am tempted to say that the majority of damage of which heels are capable is probably ascribable to walking in them improperly. The heel-toe rolling motion is an important nut to crack. One needs only to examine the sole wear on pairs of used shoes to prove the fact that many walk incorrectly in heels.

Call it vanity, (go ahead! it probably is!) but I am unwilling to give up my heels. I am quite happy here in Denialville. The community is so friendly. The neighbors brought me a fine casserole when I moved in. The property taxes are low, the schools are good, and the business district boasts a variety of independently-owned shops.

If I love the look of it and it doesn't draw blood, I think I'll go right on wearing it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pants!

I am not generally inclined to wear pants. Sure, I have a few pairs. I have endured countless upsetting shopping trips with the aim of aquiring jeans. I used to wear them more, especially during my freshman year of college when everyone else was wearing sweats and I figured I had to follow suit. At some point I was struck with the glorious revelation that I have a huge collection of skirts and dresses that I love, so why not wear them as much as I can?

Also, I don't usually find pants that work for me. My body type is straight out of the 1950s. I'll always be an hourglass, and a tall one. As soon as I find pants that make my hips look acceptable, they often barely skim my ankle. Some stores offer long sizes, (Gap is my go-to for jeans for this reason,) but I am generally out of luck.

The high waist/wide leg trend worked itself through my system in the same way that many trends do - at first I am at best indifferent, then a bit smitten. Still, I wasn't planning on trying this trend until I found these at Urban Outfitters for $9.99 on clearance, which equated to about 85% off. Many people advise never to buy something on clearance that you wouldn't want at full price. I say, fie on them. Things I will buy at full retail price are things that are very much my style, which is wonderful. For a clearance item, I am willing to go outside of my comfort zone and try something new. Fashion is, after all, about experimentation, yes?

So, I kind of like these pants. I had to lug around infinity books today (literally, I counted) and had to spend the day in flats. In the future I'd wear them with a low heel (ideally a high one, but I want to avoid the 'wading in a pool' look) and a non-button down. The fact that the button-down blouse's fabric was a bit stiff meant that the shirt bunched up a bit above the waistline and gave the appearance of belly roll that I don't actually have (not up at my rib cage, anyway.)

the pants party

Beret: thrifted
Blouse: H&M
Pants: Urban Outfitters
Bow-toe flats: Target

Ah, and I would also rather wear these on a less blustery day. The wind had plenty of wiggle room inside of these and made my legs look like they were deflating.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Colorblock Monday

I went for a color-blocked look this morning, but the addition of the socks and scarf are intended to add a bit of quirk without which, in my opinion, an outfit isn't quite done.

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Shades: Target
White scarf: thrifted
Brooch on scarf knot: H&M
Black cardigan: Old Navy
Red tee: Urban Outfitters
Vintage Judith Lieber belt: my grandma's old
Blue pencil skirt: thrifted
Black tights: Target
Blue socks: H&M
Red flats: Target

The scarf is slightly French salon / Bluebeard, no? Not that I mind.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Crafted for a Cause: Nest

Nest is a nonprofit organization that serves female artists in developing nations. It sells an exclusive collection of products by a small group of artists and designers. The money they raise is used to provide loans to women in countries such as Mexico, Turkey, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania to allow them to start craft-based businesses. They pay back these loans with pieces they design, which are in turn sold by Nest to raise funds for additional loans to go to other women. I love this idea - it is such a positive way for women and artists to support each other. Art influencing life influencing art, perhaps?

Nest sells its product line in retail stores and online. Here are a few of my favorite pieces.

This rosette bracelet would be adorable with something uber-menswear inspired.
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This tank's neckline is so delightfully exaggerated, but the regal purple tones it down.
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This kissing bird necklace is so sweet, it would look great with a tee or a floaty baby blue dress.
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Friday, April 11, 2008

Style heroes: fictional teens of the 1990s

On December 31, 1999, I rang in the new millennium at a babysitting job after ushering the children to bed several hours earlier (after midnight in, say, Greenland?) I was 13, and my fashion consciousness was not acutely developed. I favoured peace sign shirts, overalls and Doc Martens. Still, I regarded several figments of pop culture as fashion authorities and assumed I'd be clad like them come high school. Here were a few on my list.

Clarissa Darling, the heroine of Nickelodeon's TV series Clarissa Explains it All, had an enchanting fantasy life - her male best friend was allowed to enter her home by climbing a ladder to her bedroom window (at which point a suitably dorky sound effect would play,) and she could create intricate computer programs which animated the behaviors of her friends and families. I accepted these notions without question - of course my parents would be fine with males entering my bedroom window by ladder. Of course high schoolers can crack off sophisticated computer animation modules without formal training. High school is going to rock! And of course, every time Clarissa wrote words on the screen using her fingertips or spoke to the camera, she was decked out in something colorful and clashy.

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Claudia Kishi of The Baby-sitters Club is actually depicted in a number of ways - book cover illustrations, the TV series and the feature film. Claudia, albeit a brilliant artist, was always just about to fail math or science and get kicked out of the baby-sitters club. Actually, in the film, she is forced to go to summer school and the BSC wrote her a song to help her remember the parts of the human body. Claudia scored a B on the test because she remembered the lyric "the brain, the brain, the center of the chain," which really makes one wonder what impression she was under before. Still, Claudia used her creative faculties when creating fashion magic. For a more detailed analysis, the delightful What Claudia Wore is a blog that chronicles the many faces of Claudia.

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The ladies of the film Cruel Intentions rank high on the list of teenage characters who were never remotely believeable as teenagers. Granted, they weren't too believable as human beings either. The film is a delicious guilty pleasure though, and the rich schemers have quite covetable wardrobes.

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Taking the cake is Ms. Cher Horowitz of Clueless. Who didn't dream of a mechanized closet that allowed a girl to choose her outfits via computer? I can't help but be mildly disappointed that the most popular girls at my high school wore Northface jackets and body conscious polo shirts instead of one of these succulent numbers.

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Who were your fictional teenage fashion icons of the 1990s?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Technically lacking

The internet has made me marvel at the technical skills of others. There are so many creative beings out there in cyberland - their diy know-how translates into so many beautiful pieces. They leave me feeling impressed, inspired, and utterly incapable.

One such diy mastermind is Ivy Frozen, who refashions vintage pieces and sews her own clothes. One of my favorite of her feats has to be the sassy swing dress she made out of a longer skirt:

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She made it sound so easy - nothing but ribbons, buttons and thread. Pssh, I can barely turn meat, cheese and bread into a sandwich.

Strawberry Kitten is another crafty lady - she makes her own clothes and alters old ones as well. I have no idea what this blouse looked like before she put it under the knife, but the finished product is bloody perfect on her:

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I am pea-green with envy. I love the idea of diy-ing my nights away, but I am lacking in the knowledge department. I have a sewing machine that I adore, but I am easily discouraged by more complicated projects. I basically taught myself how to sew and am pretty confident in my rookie skills - I can read and follow a (simple) pattern, I can hem, sew buttons and repair torn garments. Still, I can't help but wish that I had a stronger arsenal of tricks - these girls are like fairy godmothers - they take a few rags and turn them into beautiful things without the messiness of traveling inside a glorified pumpkin.

I have a few diy ideas up my sleeve, but I always seem to need a burst of creative energy to conquer them - something hard to muster with a rigorous class and work schedule. Plus, I inevitably mess up several of the things I try. I have a sewing guide book that contains plenty of step-by-step tutorials and tips, but I sense it will be hard to improve without direction or guidance. Or, at the very least, practice - which will certainly lead to piles of unusable jagged, lumpy garments who perished at the hands of my mediocre sewing skills.

Do you sew? How did you learn? By practice or instruction? Do you have a bone you're willing to throw? How about a tip, or an inspirational quote? Any sources that could be of help?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Italian glamour

I think I was going for a bit of a Sophia Loren look today, so I decided to strike a siren-y wiggle pose. It was kind of awkward and I had no clue what to do with my face.

a bit wiggly

Headband: Charlotte Russe
Vintage earrings: from my aunt (she wore them to a 70s themed party and didn't want them any more.)
Vintage Farragamo scarf: from my grandma
Tee: Old Navy
Vintage Escada Belt: from my grandma
Skirt: thrifted
Tights: CVS
Brogues: Wal-Mart

Here is a close-up of the belt, because you really have to see the little gold pineapples. I love fruit details on accessories.

Belt detail

I was inspired by the current Guess by Marciano ad campaign...the black and white print ads have been showing up in the likes of Vogue and Lucky, but I can't seem to find the image online. Let's just say that if I wasn't wearing this to class I would have been a bit vampier. Big waves and matte lipstick, perhaps?

Monday, April 7, 2008

A case of the blues

This weekend was mind-bogglingly beautiful. I took a long walk, went shopping and generally enjoyed the outside world without a jacket for the first time in months(besides, of couse, the 30 seconds a day I step out onto my balcony without a jacket for an outfit photo.) It was ultimately a bit of a tease though. Chillier today, rainy tomorrow. There is actually a joke in Chicago that our four seasons are Winter, Winter, Winter, and Fourth of July.

the blues

Beret with rosette: thrifted
Scarf, tied into bow: from Grandma
Necklace: also Grandma's old one
70s blouse: thrifted
Dress: thrifted
Tights: Kohl's
Boots: Target

...Oooh, and by the by: Here is a photo from the recent Chicago clothing swap of the bloggers present:

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(Left to right: Michelle of Lady Language, Eve of Painfully Hip, Me, Amber of Painfully Hip, and Monica of The Midwasteland.)

Thanks to Eve and Amber for the photo, which I shamelessly copied and pasted.