Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

This super awesome 80s 2-piece dress was $2 at a garage sale. 2 legit 2 quit. Although I guess it’s actually three pieces if you count that magnificent belt.

Before: Those are serious shoulder pads.

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

Even with my hipster glasses on (yes, they are prescription lenses), I can’t really pull this off. It feels like I’m jumping the gun on my Wacky Old Broad persona, into which I fully hope to evolve over the next 30 years, but which sadly is premature at this moment.

The first thing I did was rip out the shoulder pads. It felt great, let me tell you. Then I cut out the weird black choker of a collar and widened the neckline. Lastly, I cropped the top.

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

Definitely better.

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

The collar-to-calf black-and-white print is still kind of overwhelming though. Like… it’s a bit much. I’m trying to resist my natural instinct to cut several inches off the bottom of the skirt, because I really like its length when it’s worn without the matching top.

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

A crop top is a tricky garment to pull off in real time—as a general rule, I believe that 30-year-old belly buttons should retire from public life. So, apart from the matching skirt, I was skeptical that this top could be mixed/matched into my wardrobe as a garment in its own right. Luckily, it goes just fine with my high-waisted, pleated MOM PANTS.

CropTop

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

I think the belt, sadly, is beyond salvaging. RIP belt.

Thrift Store Couture: 2-Piece 80s Dress

A Month of Outfits, or Time to Clean Out My Closet

I’ve always—in theory—loved the idea of keeping a regular journal or sketchbook. How satisfying it must be to synthesize one’s day into some kind of record or output. I also admire style bloggers who post daily photos of their outfits. In an experiment that severely tested my capacity for follow-through, I tried to combine both ideas by making a quick sketch of each day’s outfit for the month of July.

Click on the image below to view at full size:

JulyOutfits

Yikes. As a visual compilation, it’s interesting—but it also feels excessive and self-indulgent in a way I hadn’t necessarily anticipated. Like a sick, backwards The Hundred Dresses, it represents the exact opposite of the growing movement to live with less, to pare one’s wardrobe down to the basics.

The good news is that, despite having such an obscenely large repository of clothing to choose from, I apparently rotate through the selection quite aggressively. Things get worn, and they DO, in fact, bring me joy. Still, I see a serious closet purge in my future.

The data:
Number of days I wore something vintage or secondhand: 17 (At least I’m recycling!)
Number of days I wore something I made: 3
Key takeaway: Bright vintage dresses are pretty much my go-to on hot summer days—and I really don’t shy away from colors or patterns.

Originally I had thought that when the month was up, there was a chance that I would want to continue to do this daily. This could be My Thing. HELLZ NO. It was WAY too much work. Especially since I will be spending much of my foreseeable free time cleaning out that closet.

Blooming Champagne Shift Dress

I am hooked on making simple, easy dresses right now. I would like to think that this is because I actually really want to wear simple, easy dresses and not because I’m lazy, but in reality, it’s probably a combo meal.

This shift dress was a cinch to make, and it feels surprisingly lovely and sophisticated, if I do say so myself.

FloralDressA

That lovely-and-sophisticated impression is owed in large part to the fabric, I think—my mom picked up 1.5 yards secondhand at a quilt fair for $4. Given the limited yardage and the scale of the print, I had to be pretty strategic about flower placement. I really didn’t want to have an Adam and Eve moment.

FloralDressB

FloralDressBack

The pattern is from Simple Modern Sewing by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha, a great resource for creating your own wardrobe basics. The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow, and I also appreciate that the accompanying diagrams are big-picture oriented.

SimpleModernSewing

SimpleModernSewingDresses

FloralDressD

Detail of the lapped shoulder—a new design element for me. I’m a fan.

detail

FloralDressC

Yeah, I don’t know. A dress can only do so much for one’s loveliness and sophistication.

MontageA

 

The Yes-I’d-Like-to-Sample-All-the-Flavors Dress

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When I first saw this fabric on the clearance table at JoAnn, it weirdly reminded me of Henry van de Velde’s Tropon ad from 1898. Only instead of using Cadbury-esque swirls to sell a processed egg product, these pretty pastels could be pushing saltwater taffy. Or macarons. Or gelato. I might have been very hungry while I was shopping. Regardless, I ended up buying the limited yardage that was left.

fabric_swatch

It’s definitely a wacky—or shall we say unique?—abstract cotton print. And I struggled a bit with what to do with it. After sitting in my stash for a couple of years (yes, years), a project started to take shape in my head. I wanted it to be an easy, breezy throw-on dress for summer—sort of oversized and shapeless to (hopefully) balance the saccharine print. Hurrah for this summer’s Return of The Caftan!

0615_dressE
(This is more of a drop-waist dress than a true caftan I guess—but it’s still flowy and effortless.)

0615_dressC

Anyway, with a half-formed direction in mind, I pored through my terrifyingly vast collection of patterns—but I couldn’t find quite what I was looking for. So I decided to wing it.

A gentle reminder to my future self: you always say you will wing it. The process that inevitably follows can be described as “winging it” inasmuch as a 5oz European swallow tied to a 1lb coconut “wings it.” Or, if you’re more of a visual person, it’s akin to this.

Cut first, ask questions later, amiright? Nervous laughter. Just kidding, guys! (Kind of.)

As you are probably imagining, I took several wrong turns, with lots of seam-picking and re-stitching. There was some dallying with facings, which were eventually discarded in favor of bias tape binding. But I found this tutorial on faking plackets invaluable—perhaps you will too.

Eventually I got there—I was actually pleasantly surprised by the final result. Hence the abundance of photos of this one.

IceCream

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One change I would make, however: I’d address the back neckline differently, probably using a more shallow curve. From this angle, it looks a little like I’m wearing the dress backwards. Meh.

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0615_dressF
I can throw it on to run errands, but I can also dress it up and hit the town. And by town, I mean the local fro-yo place, obvi. See you there!

Montage

Dress
Jumping

Fabulous Find: Jean Louis 1960s Chevron Day Dress

The Mad Men series finale was Sunday night—I loved it, but I’m also in mourning for the show’s passing. My brilliant plan (as of about two weeks ago) was to create a 60s or 70s-style garment from scratch, using a vintage pattern and vintage fabric, by the time the finale aired. Not only did I not finish, I did not even begin. Not only did I not even begin, I picked out neither pattern nor fabric. I will get it done! Later this summer I will get it done. I hope.

I did, however, hit up the Vintage Garage flea market here in Chicago on Sunday, where the theme of the day was Midcentury Modern. Very fitting!

My sister snagged this amazing dress from the 60s:

JeanLouisDress

Even pulled on over her clothes, it looks both chic and cheery.

Can’t you picture sassy 1970s Peggy Olson wearing this?

PeggyOlsonFashion

We did a little bit of research once we got home and discovered that the name on the label—Jean Louis—is that of a renowned and prolific twentieth-century costume designer. A thirteen-time Academy Award nominee, Jean Louis Berthault dressed dozens of starlets, from Katharine Hepburn to Judy Garland. Perhaps his most famous (or infamous) designs are the barely-there gowns of Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe, including Monroe’s slinky “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” number. The Naked-Except-For-Strategically-Placed-Sparkes Look continues to be relevant today. Unfortunately. Looking at you, Beyonce, Kardashian and Lopez.

MarleneDietrichAndMarilynMonroeInJeanLouisGowns

Sources—left to right: Pretty Clever Films | alwaysmarilynmonroe.co.uk

On a less dramatic note, Jean Louis started his own ready-to-wear label in 1961. We are guessing that my sister’s dress is from one of those collections. Most of what we could find online was evening and cocktail wear, so this day dress seems like kind of an anomaly. Read more about Jean Louis here.

Dresses from Jean Louis’s Label
JeanLouisCocktailDresses

Also worth noting—the geometric color-blocking of this dress is in line with recent trends too.

RunwayChevronTrends

Well done, sis!! What a find!!

JeanLouisDress2

Royally Inspired

Homemade Kentucky Derby Hat

So. Last weekend was the Kentucky Derby. While many consider it the most exciting two minutes in sports, I love it because it is the only occasion all year when it is socially acceptable to wear a fancy hat. And not just a fancy hat—a ridiculously, outrageously dramatic, fancy hat. In real life. Not a costume. Not a joke. Not a lost bet.

One should take advantage of it.

I did not go to the actual derby, but I was invited to an incredibly lovely gathering to watch it on tv—a gathering complete with themed decor, mint juleps, bourbon truffles, derby pie, the works. It was a party the likes of which Pinterest hostesses only dream.

AND there was a contest for best hat. Now, I don’t usually think of myself as a competitive person. But there is a very small part of me that is still five years old, that can still taste the sweet, sweet victory of winning my Kindergarten class’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle drawing contest. (Chucky Cheese Pizza. That victory tasted like Chucky Cheese pizza.) And this hat contest roused that sleeping, hangry child within.

I had a goal. So where to begin? I started by perusing photos of she who is the most chic sporter of the hat: the Duchess of Cambridge. Obvi.

Kate Middleton's Hats

 Source | All photos are from eonline: Kate Middleton’s Hats and Fascinators

So many beautiful, sculptural examples! I know that derby hats traditionally have very wide brims, but I really liked the idea of doing a more unusual, asymmetrical shape. And apparently, European customs and fashions have always been a source of inspiration for Kentucky Derby attire.

Finding an interestingly-shaped hat within my meager budget proved to be a challenge. It took some intense interneting, but I finally found this frame at Theatre House, an aptly named online theatrical supply shop, for $12.95.

Hat Frame: Before

Theatre House actually recommends that you buy two of the same hat—that way you can take one apart and use it to make a pattern. However, I chose not to cover or even paint my hat frame (as was probably intended). Instead, I glued thin white ribbon over any obvious seaming.

In order to keep the hat from falling off of my head, I made two tiny loops out of very thin brown ribbon that roughly matched my hair color. I sewed one loop on each side of the hat, where the inside of the hatband rested on my head. I could then use bobby pins to pin the loops to my hair, holding the hat in place.

Now what? I GUESS I could go to Michael’s and pick out some silk flowers.

OR I COULD MAKE MY OWN.

Armed with Terial Magic Stabilizer Spray and this fabric rose tutorial from How About Orange, I got to work.

WorkStation

By taking the basic rose tutorial instructions and varying the shape and number of the petals, I was able to create a few different styles of flowers. I primarily used quilting squares of 100% cotton, but the pale pink roses are actually made of silk scraps leftover from my cocktail dress re-fashion last Fall. Once the flowers were finished, I simply used hot glue to affix them to the hat.

Derby Hat: Detail

Lovely, no?

Derby Hat

And then, my favorite part. I added A GIANT-A$$ BOW to the back! Also with hot glue.

Finished Derby Hat

TaDa!

Finished Derby Hat 2

Now, what’s this I hear about some horses?

Derby Hat Side

Plaid Pencil Skirt

Springtime in Chicago tends to be a long, steep climb, with lots of switchbacks and speed bumps and ruts along the way. It’s hard to overcome winter—either mentally or sartorially—when you have a stiff wind in your face.

But—praise to the powers that be—we’ve had a very mild spring so far. Consequently, this post feels horribly out of season right about now. My apologies.

I completed this skirt about a month ago, partially to cheer myself through potential April snow showers, and partially to overcome the rut I’ve found myself in lately. I’m not sure whether it’s an attention thing or what, but I have about a half a dozen projects in progress right now and seemingly zero intention of finishing any of them.

To try to snap myself out of it, I decided to go back to something very basic: Simplicity 2906.

plaid_skirt_pattern

plaid_skirt_flat

This is about as simple as it gets: two pieces of fabric, a zipper, a strip of twill tape and a hook and eye.

plaid_skirt

plaid_skirt_triptych

So, to compensate for the overall yawniness of this post, I thought I’d share what was on the back of my mind while I was making this: The Cape.

I bought a glorious, vintage, Made-In-Austria, wool cape at a charity consignment sale last fall for a mere $5. It’s beautiful—and I didn’t wear it once all winter.

Basically every movie and TV show I’ve ever seen affirms that ladies in capes embrace living on a grand scale. They go to masquerade balls and have their own couturiers and sing in the streets and leave home to have adventures only to discover that happiness was in front of them the whole time. No demure and shrinking wallflowers they—they are confident, brassy and never afraid to speak their minds.

That’s a lot of pressure.

CapesShelley Long in Troop Beverly Hills | Source
Leighton Meester in Gossip Girl | Source
Megan Follows and Schuyler Grant in Anne of Green Gables | Source

As I was finishing up this skirt, it occurred to me that it might be a great match for my cape—and perhaps the impetus I needed to actually leave my apartment in it.

cape_triptych

Alas—The final proportions are a little more matronly than I would like. I should probably pair the skirt either with a calf-length trench, or with a jacket that’s cropped at the waist. Likewise, I would wear a shorter skirt with the cape—maybe channeling the Blair Waldorf look and adding fishnets.

Hopefully by the time cape season rolls around in the Fall, I’ll have it all worked out, with capeworthy confidence to boot. Perhaps it doesn’t take a certain type of person to pull off a cape—perhaps the wearer draws her powers from the cape itself?

What do you think? Aside from a Sound of Music sing-along, is there such a thing as a cape-appropriate occasion in real life?

Bow Tie Sweater DIY

BowSweater_Intro

 

 INSPIRATION
Bow Sweater on April and Jess

Left: Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate in Parks and Recreation (Source)
Right: Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (Source)

I adore trompe l’oeil (despite having to look up the spelling and/or pronunciation every time I use the term), so this bow sweater with detachable collar is right up my two-dimensional alley. Its whimsy weirdly suits the polar personalities of both Parks and Rec‘s April and New Girl‘s Jess, and I think it would suit me too. Unfortunately, some quick internet-ing tells me that this is an Alice and Olivia sweater, and that it’s sold out universally. Even when it was in stock, it retailed for a few hundred bucks—which far exceeds my financial allocation for Eccentric Sweater Purchases. And it’s almost certainly beyond the means of both April and Jess, but that’s a diatribe for another day.

Inspired by the Alice and Oliva version, I decided to take a stab at my own trompe l’oeil effect using a homemade stencil and a sweater that I bought at Salvation Army for $5. Huzzah for projects in which there is very little to lose even if I totally screw them up! If you’re interested in trying this project yourself, you can download my template below.

 

MAKING THE STENCIL

Tools
stencil_tools

a) Stencil Paper, available at art supply stores. Honestly, you could probably get away with using contact paper instead.
b) Cutting mat
c) Stainless steel straightedge
d) Your chosen design. You can download the collar and bow-tie template that I created for this project here. Alternately, you might want to add just a bow, rather than the whole collar; in that case you can wear a button-down underneath your sweater and the final result will be closer to the original inspiration piece. Here are a couple of bows by themselves, if that floats your boat.
e) X-Acto knives and blades. I used standard #11 blades for straight lines, and the X-Acto Econo Swivel Knife for cutting curves.
f) Removable double-stick tape

How-to
cutting

1) Print your chosen design. I roughly trimmed out my template, just to get the excess paper out of the way.
2) Use double-stick tape to apply the template to the stencil paper, avoiding placing the tape directly behind the outlines of the design.
3) Carefully, using the X-Acto knives and straightedge, trim out the black shapes. Only cut against a cutting mat.
4) Remove the paper template. Your stencil is finished!

 

 STENCILING THE SWEATER

Tools
paint_tools

a) Removable double-stick tape
b) Stencil brush(es)
c) Sweater
d) Paint tray
e) Fabric paint
f) Stencil
g) A piece of cardboard or an old magazine to protect the back of the sweater from paint bleeding through

How-to
painting

1) Make sure the sweater has been washed and is completely dry before proceeding. Place the piece of cardboard inside the sweater.
2) Using liberal amounts of double-stick tape, position the stencil in place.
3) Use the stencil brush to dab paint in the design area. Be sure to use only a straight up-and-down motion. It may help to hold the stencil down with your fingers as you work. Pay particular attention to the edges.of the design.
4) Once the entire area has been filled in, carefully remove the stencil. You may want to go back in with a fine paintbrush and clean up any problem areas.

 

 Not too bad, eh?
finished_stencil

BowSweaterSelfie
2f74cc1b7526291f8fb68ba84c
2026add919de931b1f4a08c812

Faux Fur Shrug

Back in November, I resolved to make a shrug from this vintage pattern (Advance 6184).

VintagePattern Advance 6184

Now, the finished garment!

Shrug_Outlined

I did not originally intend to make this jacket so… fluffy. But then I found this fabric, and I couldn’t resist.

Fabric

It’s an exceptionally soft and cozy faux fur, and it makes me feel over-the-top ridiculous in the best possible way. If you squint really hard, maybe you can imagine Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe in something similar (only real, obviously), accessorized with long white gloves and some sass.

GraceMarilyn

Grace Kelly, Hola Magazine | Source
Marilyn Monroe | Source

Production Notes:

  • Working with vintage patterns is sometimes tricky on account of what the heck are they even talking about. So I did what I usually do in such cases: I cut out the pattern pieces and put them together in the way that made the most sense to me.
  • The fabric was mildly inconvenient to work with—it disintegrated a bit with every cut. I still might be inhaling fabric shreds.
  • In this case, using a traditional lining fabric seemed completely counterproductive to me. Why turn the soft, warm, faux-furry goodness outwards towards the elements, only to place a shiny, cool-to-the-touch shell next to my skin? Crazy. Instead, I used the faux fur to line the shrug too. So much cozier this way!

shrug1

I’m quite pleased with how this turned out, and I wore it—happy and snuggily—to a couple of black tie affairs that I attended in December (I know—la-dee-dah).

But it is also the kind of thing you can really only get away with around the holidays, when everyone goes about in a spiced-wine-induced haze of Good Will Toward Men, and velvet and lamé suddenly become acceptable life choices.

multi_view

shrug3

Glamour personified. If you squint really hard, maybe you can imagine that I’m not such a goober.