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I know you’re wondering so. I’m still grey, animal print, cowl-necked, striped. the end.

wait, new in 2013 was metallic stripes. i might have 6 of those.

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still keeping it classy though.

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have a great holiday and perhaps you’ll see more of us in 2014! haha

Don’t

Just, no.

Tra la la, la la la

Winter is over! Okay not really, but I have a rare and precious weekend in sunny California planned for February.  How to fit a fabulous three-day wardrobe in a carry-on bag? Sundress time! I only buy dresses that I can also wear to the office — okay not really, but let’s assume that I try — so I settled on these three awesomefest dresstastic dandies from Boden. All look good for walking-shopping-ice tea-in-sandals fun, with leggings if the day is cooler. Back home, where it is cold, I will try to wear them to the office in winter with tights and boots. In the summer maybe to work with slingback heels.  All have current colors (our Paris correspondent reports that coral is IN for 2012!). The prints and strike the perfect note of pretty without being fussy or affected (that note which is officially designated, in fashion notation, as “cute.”) All are machine washable and jersey-knit cotton blends that will wad up into little suitcase balls and lose their wrinkles in a hotel room shower. And hopefully,  all should flatter a busty little person with narrow shoulders and a little round belly (that shakes when she laughs like a bowl full of jelly).

I emphasize SHOULD FLATTER.  I had a deal for free shipping/ free returns, so I got six of them to try on and see how it goes. Boden is killer fabulous but notoriously temperamental with fit. Fingers crossed that one or two of them will work.

Also I love the pattern and color names! They sound like haiku:

Airforce Floating Floral, Mint Sketchy Floral, "Radish.

Khaki Spotted Shadow, Heather, Pewter.

Stay tuned for Part 2, when I try them on and post pictures. That is, I will post pictures if they look good (or at least bad in a good-enough way).  Otherwise Aki might have to bribe me to get me to post about it.

Links:

Womens-Siena-Dress

Womens-Jersey-Tea-Dress

Womens-Chic-Jersey-Dress

Womens-Fun-Jersey-Dress

Womens-Woven-Trim-Jersey-Dress

Heather Emerald stretch poplin, J.Crew

I am sure this person has problems. It just seems like they must be really, really different than any of my problems.

A Reader Writes:

 

I was in my closet yesterday, lamenting the fact (yet again) that I had nothing to wear, when I had a startling realization. It was that I had all these stupid button down shirts occupying prime visual real estate, so I would walk in the closet, glare at them, then walk out again. My husband thinks button-up shirts are the epitome of stylishness and thinks that I look “more dressy” in them. I have a few that I like (mostly the silk ones) but the rest pull and gap and are just unattractive. However, I can’t seem to ditch them entirely because they can look okay on me with a cami underneath and with the shirt unbuttoned almost to the waist. And the sleeves rolled.  Who am I kidding? That’s not the sign of good-fitting clo, is it?  Maybe they’ll migrate to the upstairs closet until I can get around to a total purge. But isn’t one white button shirt acceptable?

 -Veronica, New England
Dear Veronica (not your real name):

The short answer is yes: one white button shirt in your closet is acceptable — if you wear it.  The long answer is, dude!  Why not get rid of everything you don’t wear (surely someone out there can give your button-downs a loving home — women’s businesswear is always an especially appreciated clothing donation).  Why keep clothing around that just festers resentment and guilt through your entire closet?  Well, because of fashion rules, that’s why.  It’s a maxim dilemma: how much do we stick with the “clean your closet and only own what you really wear” maxim– what if that leaves us only old hoodies and jeans from college. It would keep us in a rut that could be saved by embracing the dressy clothes, collecting basic pieces, and breaking out our potential frump cycle.  Is a single white shirt an answer to this? A crisp one?

Um how bout not?

Every single person absolutely needs one of these in their closet. Except you don't.

I’m not going to hate on all white today: I’m talking specifically about the long-sleeved, all-season, poplin or other classy-ass fabric you need to iron: the BLOUSE. Some of them are called Oxfords.  If anyone is still reading along here, I’d love to know if you have one.  I don’t think I have since 1992: the same year  my mom got me a blazer from the Gap for Christmas because it looked so “Collegiate” to wear with jeans. Yet, it is a “maxim” that everyone needs one. So much so that  Entire Articles like this one: The Classic white shirt: a primer*  are premised on the assumption that everyone must and will have a White Shirt — it’s just a matter of  finding the proper one for you.

The idea seems to be that a Tailored White Shirt can go anywhere — dress up or down — match anything in a pinch. Okay, maybe. But does it look good? Are you happy in it? Does white make you look sick and bloated? And really, isn’t it a little bit presumptuous to insist that everyone wants to squeeze into some boxy, preppy, wrinkle-prone remnant of Early 20th Century Men’s Tailoring? Personally I find them binding and impossible to keep tucked in (even if I wanted to tuck in — not a great look on us “apples,” honestly). It feels fussy to pull a sweater on over them. And I get that structured pieces give a body shape — seriously I dig that — but I don’t like structure too close to my body like that. It bugs, and it doesn’t look all the great on me.

How about you? If like “Veronica” you are debating whether you should hang onto old button-downs — (or keep feeling guilty because you don’t keep looking for the Perfect White Shirt ) — I offer this quick quiz to help:

IS IT NECESSARY FOR ME TO HAVE A CRISP, WHITE TAILORED SHIRT IN MY CLOSET AT ALL TIMES?

1. Are your normal, everyday polo shirts sometimes too casual for the nice jeans you want to wear with patent leather shoes?
2. Do you LOVE accessories — in fact have so many scarves, belts and chic chunky necklaces that you wish you had more coordinating tops to wear them with?
3. Speaking of belts, don’t you hate it when your shirt won’t tuck in, and no one can see your super cute belt? Do you tuck your shirt in to show off your butt? (There is potentially one person reading this who might).
4. Do colors — even taupe, gray, camel, and pale blue — make you nervous?
5. Is your name Clive Owen?

If you answered yes to any one of the above then yes, I get it. You go with your bad white shirt. If you are still rolling your eyes, though, then you’re with me. And you have my full blessing to put the white shirt in the (literal or theoretical, if you don’t really have one) pile of WHATEV clothes.  And seriously,  another year from now I might be ready to argue that the “collared blouse” ideal is so over it might actually be dated.  I will keep a close eye on the continuing tenure of Secretary of State Clinton as a fashion benchmark on this particular point.

But back to Veronica: you’re not off the hook that easily, my friend! Keep looking for comfortable, versatile wardrobe basics that will “dress up” those fabulous New England businesswoman-professional outfits of yours  — AND  “dress down” for a pizza-and-movies date night.  And how about those tricky Saturday events, like bridal shower for someone you barely know in a restaurant you’ve never heard of ? What if a white cotton Oxford would be PERFECT for that? I don’t care, but I will suggest these:

If you genuinely like the “collared blouse” style, Boden has this washable rayon/silk blend  in a flattering cream color. Even better they have it in green, cadet blue, gold, pewter and scarlet!   But my personal fave tops are strategically-draped knits in a well-grounded (but still interesting) color. Easy to layer, don’t have to tuck in. Other ideas?

Sweet, easy, comfy classy

Silk Flower Top in Pewter, $88 at Boden

Pretty

Peacock Blue Pleated front knit top, Merona for Target, $16.99. Also available in white.

Now isn't this better?

Slub cotton tiered tee in "Shade Blue," also known as "Gray."

*If you are going to quote Jane Austen as is done here, keep in mind that she is usually joking.

I made a shirt

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Although “made” might be overstating it. As might “shirt.”

Imagine a shir that looks like this,  except that it's cuteThis pattern is Simplicity 2181 “Misses Knit Tops.”  It is a fairly simple pattern in that it is only 4 pieces — front, back, and two “overlays” sewn to the sides and twisted across the front. It is difficult because it requires knit fabric (I just realized that any shirt without buttons or a zipper needs to be stretchy enough to pull on). Knits stretch when you sew them, the pins slip out, and they don’t like to crease neatly when pressed. For these reason knits suck and I don’t know why I bother, except I like wearing them and I’m hoping that my skills will improve with time.

The fabric is a “watercolor stripe” knit I got for $4.99 on sale at Denver Fabrics.  It caught my eye because of that 2011-is-that-an-animal-print styling, plus these are my favorite colors to wear.

The pattern caught my eye because Simplicity Patterns were on sale for $1 each.  If you buy patterns but don’t know this yet, take heed: Pattern pricing (actually everything to do with sewing pricing) is a strange-ass racket. They are marked for sale at $9.99-$17.99 or so. They are always sold retail for 40% (which exempts them from most major retailer coupons “for full price items only.”) Then they randomly (?) go on ridiculous discounts like $1 each. If you’re interested in sewing, spend some time browsing the pattern sites (or better yet, a good sewing site like patternreview.com) and start keeping a list of patterns you’re interested in.  You’ll have it handy as soon as you see a “1$ sale” at the fabric store, which is good because everyone will be hogging the Simplicity books.  And the last thing any sew-ist needs is more wasted time in the fabric store.

I’ve known for a couple of years now that ruched and gathered tops work best for me. I was happy to see that my style instincts were right on track, there. My technique, unfortunately, is not. The neckline is wonky because I sewed the facing in along the V-neck — I can’t press it flat, so the lining poofs out like some extra-ruffled collar action. Like some kind of  Dickey . Seriously my husband trying to be nice said “oh is that another design detail?” NO IT’S NOT, Good Husband, it is just that  I’m not finished putting the shirt on! Come over here and give me a hand, will you.  I think I need to be more careful stitching the lining along the exact same V as the shirt front. Also I need to follow directions about “clipping curves,” and stuff like that, which always seems “extra” but you know it’s probably in the directions for a reason.

Speaking of directions, the sleeve is messed up there because I accidentally sewed things backwards and had to cut it apart. You can see where a leftover piece of backwards-stuff is still attached.  There is no good reason why I sew stuff backwards on accident; I sit there telling myself “Read the directions, Robin! DONT MESS UP!” and then next thing I know, Good Husband is trying to put the shirt on me saying “I really don’t think this can work, like it is mathmatically impossible for it to go on over your head.”  OKAY FINE I will fix it.  Everyone standing around waiting for the “look at my new shirt” demonstration, please retire and await the next announcement.

Next step: Carefully rip the seam out of the mistakie-place, avoid damaging the shirt, figure out to do with the arm holes. See if I can iron it into something presentable.

Then get ready to wear that baby out on the town. For real.

Simplicity 4927

Good thing we have that "no toys in the living room" rule

Attempt 1: Purple floral with blue ribbon pocket trim.

Ok so. Until this summer, my last experience with sewing started and stopped in 1985, when I sewed two seersucker pillows shaped like the letters “K” and “M” (a birthday present for my sister) in junior high Home Ec.  I bought a new sewing machine without much of a clue: I was surprised  to see my hands remembered the “knob turn/back stitch/ flip up the presser foot” move at the end of a line of stitching. Have you noticed that Diane Keaton does this in Godfather II? Bam! Sewed ya, Corleone! Very satisfying.
 
But I didn’t find  sewing  as easy as, say, riding a bike. There’s the “threading” thing and what I’d call the “steering” thing to get the stitches where you need them to go.  Singer does have a pretty good instruction book and there’s plenty of help available online. Still, the bobbin vexed me for days. Days of desperately adjusting every tension setting possible, including taking the machine apart. DAMN BOBBIN.  I finally realized I had to slide the bobbin thread under that tight little place on the bobbin case, OOPS. Time to start sewing. Lesson learned: To save time, ask questions!  Call your mother as early as possible in the learning process. Preferably before you turn forty, although it’s never too late.
 
I knew my first dresses needed to be EASY PATTERNS and that, if they were going to be cute, I had to use CUTE FABRIC. These are my oft-repeated sewing mantras (the third relates to TECHNIQUE, a whole nother story). So to make my daughter a dress I first turned to Simplicity 4927, a simple two-piece pattern (front and back — really two back pieces and also two facing pieces).  No zipper. Sleeves optional. Attempt 1 was a fairly cute purple shift with blue ribbon on the pockets (too wide in the shoulders — Little Missy wears a 4T-5T in off-the-rack but a Pattern Size 3 is too big for her).  She likes the lavendar color, but was a little disappointed that the skirt was not more TWIRLY. This is a girl who knows what she wants and it is not this. If anyone wants a size 4-5T lavender shift dress with sloppy pocket stitching (Attempt 1, above), let me know.
Twirly

Attempt 2

So for Attempt 2, I tried to make the skirt twirly by clipping it and inserting triangular panels to make it “full.” This mostly worked, although the panels fell into pleats which surprised me. I bought some blue ruffled trim, which was adorable on the hem. But it turned out not to be long enough. You know how 2-pi*R is the circumference of a circle? This means the hem of a full skirt is like SIX times the length! Six! So oops I ran out of trim for the hem. I had to cut the skirt to fit, which is why there is blue vertical trim (bias tape) and a bow. Lesson learned: Measure, duh.
Me hold still?

Attempt 3

Since that worked pretty well, I went for Attempt 3. This used a cute blue and pink paisley calico. I tried to make the skirt Yet-Twirlier by cutting each panel (the front and two backs) into a wider arc below the waist. This worked in two dimensions — it did look fuller — but when she wore it, it just hung like a potato sack. It also “needed something,” so I added a flounce.  This stiffened the hem so that it hangs a little more full-ly, and also has the added benefit of making the dress “Curly” in addition to “Twirly.” Success:
When will you sew something FOR ME?

To make a flounce, cut out a "spiral" of fabric. Then it ruffles when you stretch it straight.

Back to the Beginning

"inconceivable!"

i don’t know if you’ve been paying attention but i recently had a baby. as a result i spend a lot of time staring at my son’s face and reflecting on things like how my life up to now came to be, where i’m going now, and other things. for instance, how is it that when i open my closet, there are only *3* shirts in there? and also that i hate every single one of those stinking shirts? how did i get here?

another thing i noticed during one of these baby-staring sessions is that while most newborns are supposed to look like winston churchill, mine looks a lot like wallace shawn.

as you know, wallace shawn is famous for playing vizzini in the princess bride. if you were alive in the 80s you know what i’m talking about:

"all you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

vizzini was known to tell inigo and andre the giant that whenever you get stuck on something, you should always go back to the beginning. when you find yourself lost, go back to the beginning. i thought he had a good point. so last night i spent some time rereading my old posts. why did we start this blog? what was my objective? what was my attitude? did i look good? am i where i wanted to be when this all started?

2 years ago, i was wearing nothing but hoodies. that was my uniform. it was easy breezy and comfortable. why can’t i have that again? i can’t even remember why i thought i needed to get rid of hoodie aki. probably because the hoodies i did have were old tattered and pilled. so what if i bought *nice* hoodies? i can haz that back again, right? so that’s another homework assignment for me. get some nice hoodies.

(i have a vague recollection that when we started i had an earnest desire to make this into a good fashion blog. now i feel like we are the fashion equivalent of the onion… people like to laugh though, right?)