Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Hallowe'en

  Happy Hallowe'en, y'all!

  My thoughts on this holiday are kind of complicated. I really like the idea of an adult party, of dressing up, and of having a night festival. I like the origins, and I think dressing as something that scares you can be very empowering.  I always think of our ancestors, and how early costumes or ceremonial wear might have been the skins of large predators, worn as a reassuring reminder of our sharp pointy tools or to channel some of that fierce spirit for ourselves.

  I think the adult Hallowe'en thing started with a parade in the 1970s, in New York's Greenwich Village. It was also the de facto gay district, and expressive, over the top costumes became part of the culture. In recent years there have been serious efforts to control crowds in San Francisco's Castro District during Hallowe'en, because the garbage pickup and destruction to the neighborhood are immense, and because it's often packed so shoulder-to-shoulder that it's really dangerous.

  I think the explosion of Sexy [Noun] costumes started more recently though, maybe the early aughts, because I remember being a college student (the first time!) and thinking, "There sure are a lot of scantily-clad people around this year." and "... is that a sexy [random thing]??"

  So, complicated. On one hand, I hope it goes without saying that I believe every woman should dress in as much or as little as she wishes, and have the safety to go anywhere at any hour without harassment. Do I believe all women, regardless of age and body type, should rock their figures however they wish? Yes. Do I, as an obsessive-compulsive woman who also wears costume elements in her everyday clothing, get disproportionately irritated by nominal "costumes" that clearly put scanty first and any creative thought of dressing up dead last? Yes.

   So on Hallowe'en night each year, the bus that runs in front of my school picks up two dozen young women tottering in new 6" heels and well-worn mismatched bras and panties. They may have some random accessories like a plastic cocktail sword or piece of cloth tied to head. And then this line of questioning starts playing in my mind.

  Should you feel free to attend a party in your underwear? Yes!

  Does your everyday underwear constitute a costume? Probably not!

  Why was money spent on shoes of the most illogical make possible in a city where you have to walk everywhere on hills and not on anything else?

  Do you know the local thrift shop has truckloads of cool things you can get for a few dollars, that can double as conversation starters at the party you're attending, and triple as protection from the elements?

  Do you have any idea how cold you're going to be later? I hope you guys will pitch in for a cab.

  Where on earth are you keeping your money and IDs?

  ... and then the dissonance makes the single gear in my head grind to a halt, the hamster takes a nap on the treadmill, and I'm in a daze the rest of the way home.

  I think the thing that keeps poking me, aside from the complete and utter disregard for creative thought, is that there's clearly a desire to go out and feel sexy and have fun, but it only comes out on a holiday in which it's considered 'acceptable'. On a holiday, you can claim a thin pretense of being in costume, to shrug off social ramifications. It's a strange double-standard in which a woman might strip to her underwear for the male gaze, and pretend it's a costume so that same male gaze doesn't decide that she's desirable, but too sexual, so y'know, a slut. And you can read anywhere in the news how the patriarchy views sluts.

  Oh and don't get me started on the dearth of non-sexy Hallowe'en costumes for women out there.  I want women to feel empowered and free to dress in a way that makes them feel great, whether revealing or covered up, or anywhere on the spectrum in-between. It's just I'd like the options available to reflect that spectrum, and they really don't.

  Anyway, I turned the tables by making something that is a noun first, sexy second. (My sewing skills have fortunately improved since I made this.) I wore it to class last year, got my photo taken a few times, and a gal shrieked across the quad that she loves unicorns. A father even pointed out the unicorn to his delighted young son. No one wanted an explanation, or even mentioned the thong. I'm not sure if I was relieved or disappointed. (Probably disappointed. The hot pink zebracheetahleopard print means I'm wearing unicorn camo!)

I was warm, though!
Mane/tail - thrifted scarf
Velvet hoodie and pants - thrifted
Unicorn horn - etsy The Thorn and Rose
Thong - Target

  This year I'll probably wear a variant on my Edwardian dude outfit and go as a turn of the century newspaper boy. Have fun and I hope everybody parties safe. :D

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Subtle Embellishments

  This is my old uniform: some sort of unique/graphic tee and some cool pants or jeans. I wore this style every day for decades. I love my skirts and my other clothes, but I find this the most comfortable. I thought I'd share it with you. What is your go-to or zero point outfit?
Top: Foreign Exchange (thrifted)
Ryan Bootcut Pants: S by Sanctuary (thrifted, sz 8 in denim on eBay)
Boots: Two Lips (thrifted)
Necklace: defunct etsy shop
  This is not a unified theme! The pants are detailed like cowgirl chaps -brass snaps at the bottom of bootcut legs and decorative seams curving up the sides to the back- and the shirt is detailed like a princess gown, with slightly puffed sleeves and a twisty collar. I love them both very much.
  These fake chaps pants are the most complicated trousers I have had to shorten yet. They have a series of brass snaps at the bottom that I fell in love with, but the legs were the usual 5" too long. What to do? I ended up measuring the angle of the decorative line across the thigh in the back, tracing out the same angle with a protractor, and cutting the inches out partway up the leg and doing a diagonal pseudo-top stitch to imitate the style of the pants, then reinforcing the edges so they wouldn't fray. It took two evenings and I made a Facebook life event in commemoration after I was done fixing these and a pair of Cop Copine pants with a convoluted cuff/invisible hem.

  I never want to sew pants on a diagonal again. You can't just turn them inside out and sew two edges together unless you cut open the seams on the side, because the two pieces are set at an angle to one another so they can't lie flat at the ends. And they are different widths because the legs are bootcut. These had better last a while, because I'm burnt out on alterations for now. They are mega-sweet, though.

  I wish I could find out more about the brand, but they appear to have zero 'net presence. I *think* the brand is "s by Sanctuary" (the tags are just leather strips with 's' embroidered on them, so this took some digging!) the same company that makes my beloved thrifted hoodie. Isn't it a bummer when you can't track brands down?  Maybe rich people don't shop online. :D

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pantsion Plan

  I have a question, dear readers!

  How many pairs of pants (trousers, for you European folks) do you own?

  I know the answer varies widely depending on whether you prefer skirts to trousers, your line of work and its dress code, wardrobe size, and so on. I'd love to hear about it. Do you have a favorite pair of pants? Pants just for home? I'm asking both because I thought it would be fun to hear about, and as a sanity check because my pants are outgrowing the drawer I keep them in.
  This is the pants drawer. It is in a free craigslist bureau that is unremarkable save it is exactly the dimensions of a Toyota Prius with the back seats folded down, minus 3/4 of an inch on the top and sides.

  The pants get folded into sixths and fit inside in four columns, six deep for trousers and five deep for jeans, and I have two cool hangers that hold four pairs apiece. The thing is, I now have 29 pairs of pants -12 jeans and 17 slacks/trousers, and if you count the pair of khakis I'm altering, it becomes a round 30.
  So that's 30 pairs of pants and one pair of legs. Almost all of them have been featured on Couturgatory in its brief time on the Internet. They all fit; I wear them and I like them. But there are 30 of them. And the question rebounding in my skull like a BB rattling in a tin can is: Is this normal?

  Just trying to keep an eye on the arbitrary line between enthusiastic clotheshorse in a compact living space and bananamonkey crazyperson. I mean, again, there's a lot of play here, but most people would probably tell me north of 30 say, cats that maybe I should take it easy.

  I have lived in pants the majority of my life. This summer, while trying to post outfits to the blog that didn't consist of ratty denim shorts and a geeky graphic tee, I wore more skirts and dresses than I have since I was six. I liked it! But now that I have many lovely skirts and dresses, I wonder if my pants collection should still be growing. How do you manage your pants collection?

  At this point I've also realized that pants is a delightful word to say. Pants pants pants pants. Emancipantson Proclamation. The Safety Pants. Pantsalot. Pantsy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Elepants. :D
  The seasonal changeover continues apace! Winter, that time of year in which there are fewer items in the closet, but it's more crowded because of garment volume. (:

  Summer skirts and sundresses are going away...
  ... into the shelf box previously occupied by sweater dresses and cold weather skirts:
  With few exceptions, my cold weather clothes are grey and black. I tend to spend my winters huddled in wool coats and scarves looking miserable, but I will do my best to inject some color and visual interest.

  What will you be wearing in the coming months?

Monday, October 28, 2013

High and Waisted

  This is the highest waisted skirt I have ever donned.
   I have no idea what goes on top of a skirt that sits this high! Only thing that would stay put is this unitard thing with a Mandarin collar my mother bought for me some 14 years ago.
Top: Wolford (gift from Mom)
Shrug: Twenty-one (eBay)
Shirt clips: DIY (tutorial here)
Steampunk skirt: MNG suit (thrifted)
Boots: Two Lips (thrifted)

  (This outfit's actually from last week, but didn't make it to a full post. It was still balmy then! I do not enjoy this drop of 15-20 degrees F in several days. -_-)

  I think I like the silhouette, but the outfit's colors and patterns do not agree. This Steampunk style skirt sure changes my idea of proportions. Never thought of trying to lengthen legs because with my shoulders, I thought I'd look like a hut on stilts. It turned out to be worth at least a second try in my opinion. I hope I don't have to buy an entire outfit to go around it.

Look at the sweet suspender style buttons:
  The skirt is technically brown, but because it's so dark I think I should go with outfit pieces that match a dark grey next time. What do you wear with high-waisted skirts or trousers?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Waiting for Godet

  Well go figure, I have a good long whinge about the weather (thank you for your patience!) and the next day the sun comes out and it is gorgeous. It's 10F warmer than it was yesterday, and it's been clear all day.  I'm so happy, not least of all because I can wear this outfit before 2014.
Laguardia cloche: Goorin Bros. (sample sale, available here)
Peasant top: Zara basic (thrifted)
Skirt: Free People (old)
Boots: Two Lips (thrifted)
Locket: etsy shop
Rose scrunchie: Japan

  I didn't even need my sweater tights!

  My gorgeous Goorin Bros. sample sale hat goes with quite a bit in my wardrobe, as it turns out! I'm really, really happy with this. I feel a little like a special occasion every time I wear it out.

  The loose grey-blue shirt is new to me. I've always avoided slouchy boho fit, especially with elastic on the bottom for the bubble look (I'm short and absentminded, so it just looks like my clothes don't fit or I'm crazy), but I loved the sleeves and color and tiny brass buttons. I've had this skirt for years, and finally got a tailor to re-install the invisible zipper after I removed it to alter it (hint: if you need to remove the top 5 inches of a skirt, make sure to order the smallest possible size, not your actual size. -_-) and finally I have a top to wear with it. :D

  The earring has been missing its twin for years, but I still love it. I'm always on the lookout for lampwork beads similar to the centerpiece, so I can make a replacement pair, but no luck yet.

  Here's some clothing vocabulary for you: a godet is a circular segment insert set into a piece of clothing, often to give the wearer a wider range of movement. It's responsible for that gorgeous swirling kicking out when walking in a full-length skirt. I've loved them all this time and just found out what they were called!
  In Aya shopping news: I've often read about Hallowe'en being folks' favorite time of year, but it's just now working its way up to one of mine, because I've realized it is the time thrift shops pull out their funky costume-y items and sell them for a song, and those of us who wear those things for everyday have a party.

  Here are some recent finds that I cannot wait to try out when warmer weather arrives:
 Lavender chiffon skirt for $2. Is there anything so feminine as feeling the swish of fabric against the back of one's calves while walking?
   The last time I wore an ao dai was to my dearest friends' wedding. The bride's family was enchanted by the Japanese woman in the Vietnamese dress, despite the presence of a dozen lovely Vietnamese women in them, too. Hee! The groom was entertained that I'd pop the thing open every time I took a deep breath or flexed my lats. (It is held together by a long series of snaps.)
  This one did not have the flowing pants attached, but for $3.49, I am not complaining. I wonder if I can wear it with bootcut jeans?
  I think this shirt is "Asian" as in sold-for-tourists, but I love the embroidery and the color. It's an XXL, but I'll figure out a way to style it somehow.
  Is there anything so fine as thrifted silk? This navy blue linen-and-silk shirt(?) is super long. I'm not sure what it's designed for, but I'm pretty sure it's a woman's garment. I removed the pointy part of the collar to give it a Mandarin look and I like wearing it over tunics with wide leg jeans and platforms.

  What are the latest cool things you've added to your treasures?

  Have a lovely weekend, everyone. (:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cranky Nopants

  Hey guys! I missed blogging. :D  I also missed the sun. Here's a picture I took Thursday to celebrate the first time it came out in over a week.
Sweatshirt dress: Mossimo (thrifted)
Vest: Forever 21 (thrifted)
Tights: UNIQLO (gift from Mom)
Over-the-knee boots: unknown (clothing swap)
Hat: eBay (similar)

  This whole 'personal style' thing is still pretty new to me. The outfits I posted this past warm season are partly because I have 1 pair of ratty denim shorts, and since I didn't think that would do for a style blog, I experimented with putting together other fun things.

  Cold weather's different. I hate the cold. I hate this sudden seasonal change. I hate wind and damp and numb feet and blue fingertips. Hate is a strong word, but it takes me months to shake off a dull, stuffy vaguely anxious feeling when the sun doesn't show up for weeks at a time. Happens every year, and my priorities this season, as with many Asian women, shift from "what fun to wear today?" to "protect myself from the elements, nevermind how ridiculous I look."

  This year I am going to try to shake myself out of it by risking a stupendous gas bill and trying to heat this place. There is no weatherproofing in our apartment (the balcony door doesn't even close all the way,) it's very damp, and the thermostat doesn't register, and you have to manually switch it on every 15 minutes if you want heat, but I can't take being cold indoors and outdoors all of the time. It does not snow, and it very rarely drops below freezing in the Bay Area, but this means that shopkeepers and restaurants also don't see fit to heat anything, and people leave the doors to the tiny cafe and retail spaces OPEN all the time, so you never get away from the winter weather. It means the only times I am warm are when I am driving my car and when I'm taking a shower. It drives me insane.

  I've heard older Chinese people say that white people are more resistant to the cold than Asians are. The whole special sweat gene means this might be more true than I thought. Either way, that is my rant. I will do my best to add more visual interest to my outfits, because otherwise you all are going to get an endless procession of dark neutral sweat/er/shirt dresses, long pants, and peacoats.

  Today I tried adding a long vest to this teal sweatshirt dress. I wasn't sure how the proportions would work out, but it was warm. I see now in the photo it looks like I forgot to don pants, which still puts me one up on my leggings-only-clad classmates, who, thank god, are now being forced to actually wear some. Gosh, I'm really cranky. I just realized this. This is therapeutic. :D

  Since I've been running out the door without taking outfit photos and coming back after dark, here are some photos of what I have been up to:

I made some new fabric-covered buttons for my thrifted Sanctuary hoodie! I am wearing it with some thrifted bling jeans here.
  I love this thing. It's so soft, has gorgeous piping on the inside, has interesting lines, good construction, and came to me in like-new condition! It was just missing one button on the left pocket, which you can see above.
  I picked up a fabric button kit at my local DAISO, a Japanese dollar (and a half) store. I took a piece of jersey fabric and placed it around the metal button head, and put it in the clear plastic holder. You can't use too many layers of cloth, but if you want added fullness/softness on the head of the button, you can cut a round piece of fabric and place it between the button head and the cloth you're wrapping around it, which is what I did.
  I photographed the instructions on the back of the package. (: You trim the cloth, fold it in around the button head, place a button backing on top, push down on the round green plastic presser, and you have a new button!
   The buttons on my hoodie were between sizes of the kits available, so I made two buttons and replaced the remaining one, as well:
  Pretty good match, I think!  What are some DIY repairs you have done?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Athletic Ninja

  Last week, I was a participant in the studies we are doing for senior research at school. I had to wear all black and shorts for mo-cap and for electrodes. Well, the athletic ninja look is so last season and no one wears all black after Overthrow the Shogunate Day (and my bike shorts are really short!) so I added a wide leather belt, two silver scarves, and a coverup silk dress by 4 Love and Liberty.
Dress: 4 Love and Liberty (gift from Megan Mae)
Belt: évenément (thrifted, Japan)
Scarves: Fair Indigo and forgotten junior shop (v. old)
Toe shoes: Vibram (The CAMP at Costa Mesa)

  Yes, this is yet another gift from the wonderful Megan Mae! This week was evidently the Megan Mae Festival. I wish someone had told me in advance; I could have baked cupcakes and sewn a flag.

  I love shirt shells, so I should love dress shells too, right? RIGHT. This thing is incredibly comfortable and in my favorite shade of 'Depression Blue' (friend coined it, I love it.)  There are little loops in the back, so I will add some ties when I find a suitably pretty ribbon.
  I also took a shot of my athletic shoes, since I don't know how often they're seen outside of my area. They're common enough here that people know the brand and recognize them on sight, but they're predominantly worn by middle class young people (the people who have the time and income to think of their health.) I love them because as someone with very wide feet, it's the first time I've practiced stances in martial arts and not had my feet cramp because the distal half is being vise-gripped into a block by my shoe. Also they were 65% off and the purple is cute. I get a lot of comments on them. (:

  How did you spend Megan Mae Week?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tulle and Honor

  This outfit is inspired by a Pinterest picture I saw:
Ah, for the elegance of these surroundings, eh?
  I originally pinned it for the military coat, but I ended up liking the look of the coat over a feminine skirt. And just the other day, I managed to find TWO feminine swishy skirts at the thrift store. They both needed a lot of taking in, but I sewed like a madwoman and got them done in a few days, so here is the first:
Jacket: promod (thrifted)
Shirt: BCBGirls (thrifted)
Tie: OzzOn Japan scarf (Japan)
Skirt: Final Touch (thrifted)
Shoes: Rieker antistress Mirjam 57 (thrifted)
   No military style is complete without the Cara Royal Highness pin, also known as my airship captain medal.  I took one third of my OzzOn scarf, which is three spiraling strips of cloth and lace, to make a lady-tie. My only feminine shoes, the Rieker Antistress Mirjams, worked out pretty well. :D

  I'd never heard of the skirt brand before- Final Touch. It is so gorgeous. It's mid-weight woven and lined, with flowers of silk and tulle sewn on with beading. Great skirt for fall and spring, since the lining and weight of the material make it hold up to strong breezes.

  Look, twirly!
  Since my movement blurred the photo, I tried a filter and made myself look oily:

  I hope everyone has a gorgeous weekend. :D