Unsung Heroes of My Closet: Why the 1940’s Make Me Feel a Little Bit Fat

Recently, I’ve been sending out a lot of resumes. For those of you who have never had to deal with the gauntlet of stress that is the summer internship, it is essentially a hyper-competitive summer job in which you are at the very bottom of the totem pole. The advantage is that taken a job like this can help you climb that totem pole later on in your career. I’ve been angling for something fashion-related this summer, to make the whole process a little bit more appealing. So far, I’ve been able to work my vintage collection into my resume, so I’m off to a pretty good start!

Talking about my rabid need to buy more and more clothes also inspired a new blogging topic for me: Unsung Heroes of my Closet. This may even turn into a repeated segment for me, because even though my whole fashion ethos is about trying to wear everything I own, no matter how weird, there are a few items that never make it out into the real world, no matter how hard I try.

Today, I’ll be talking about a gorgeous black velvet sheath from the 1940’s. Its the gem of my vintage collection, but its never been featured on this blog, because there’s no way to wear this to class without looking like I’m going to a medium-fancy Christmas party, or to a funeral.

Here’s the front…

And the back!

This is an example of something that I saw, knew that I would never have a use for, and bought anyway because I couldn’t resist. Its by Bobbie Brooks, which, by my understanding, was the dElia’s of the 1940’s. It was one of the first companies that made clothes specifically for the teeny-bopper set, and established the idea of the juniors department. Its also extremely tiny, probably because it was designed for a time period where all food was rationed for the war, and Americans hadn’t become the heavyset bunch we are now. This dress is a size 8, but you would never know it by today’s standard. I’m a fairly petite person, and I can barely fit into it. Plus that belt you can see in the shot of the back is designed to tighten it still further. I think the message is that, if I want to wear this dress for real sometime, I’m going to need the accompanying girdle.

 

This unsung hero says: “Dress like its 1947. Because real women don’t need to breathe. Or sit down.” Over even smile, in my case, because I could tell the back seam was seriously considering busting open, in protest of my non-war-era hips. Plus, if I’d opened my mouth, I might have accidentally exhaled. I have never sucked in my stomach quite so emphatically.

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My Offline Fashion Saga

I feel like I haven’t posted in eons. And thats not because I don’t have anything to post! I have a serious backlog accumulating here, and the internet has missed out on a few choice (by which I mean crazy) outfits. But that is because my academic life and my hopeful fashion life are having a major collision in the real world. A detailed description would be excruciatingly boring, but the upshot is as follows:

Over break, I had this amazing experience working for a badass set design studio, and I decided that I can’t really fuck around anymore. If I want to go into fashion, and continue having that type of amazing experience, I have to do something about it. Since the bachelor’s degree that I’m working towards is not in any way fashion-related, I need to start getting some of the foundational experience that I need if I want to go anywhere in the industry, and more specifically, to Parsons the New School for an MFA. So, I’ve been trying to convince my school to allow me to attend Parsons undergrad for a semester, and still give me academic credit towards my art history minor. Its not working out particularly well, so I’m now looking for alternatives and sending out resumes to fashion publications like nobody’s business. If I hear anything solid as a result of any of this, the internet will be the first to know, but for now its just chaos and confusion.

My other, less life-altering fashion saga was the disappointing purchase of shoes from Rue La La. I had my eye on a gorgeous pair of Steve Madden pumps. Online, they were black suede platform mary-janes. This is what I received in the mail:

Platform? Yes. Everything else? No. Arguably the ugliest shoes I have ever had the pleasure of trying on. Yes, I tried them on. Wouldn’t you? But in any event, they are going back to some Kardashian hell on Tuesday.

To make up for such a heartbreaking fashion tragedy, I bolstered myself today by going to the monthly thrift store in the college center, and hit the jackpot. Maybe not at the Dior level of previous thrift adventures, but I definitely had some substantial wins.

Starting with:

These earrings are the raddest. The lady who sold them to me called them “Joan Crawford earrings.” They cost twelve bucks, and weigh about twelve pounds, but its so worth it! Not to worry though, I have no Mommie Dearest intentions. I just feel glam wearing them.

I also scooped up a couple of scarves from the two-dollar bin. The one on top has a paisley and stripes situation going on, in addition to being hot pink. From the perspective of someone who likes her patterns loud and clashing, this is a total win. The bottom one is black and white, and shows different scenes of architecture in Venice. Its definitely on the dangerously kitschy end of the spectrum, but, again, this is not a problem as far as I’m concerned.

Last but not least, another purse to add to the collection. This one is so painfully seventies that I had to have it. I plan to wear it all summer with my brown platform sandals and possibly bell-bottoms. The whole thing is shiny plastic, and roughly the same texture as those fake wooden panels that station wagons used to have. And of course, nothing says high-style like “seventies car vinyl.”

Hopefully this collection of glorious accessories will keep me going throughout my academia/fashion collision, they’re definitely cheering me up right now. Almost as much as how gorgeous the campus looks when its 52 degrees in February!

See below, gorgeousness!

Clashing Patterns: School-day Chic

I am slowly but surely reintegrating into academic life for the new semester. Classes are good, and my professors are interesting, but I’m having to fight to avoid slipping in the classic college bad-dressing pattern. When you don’t have class til noon, its really tempting to sleep in til twenty minutes before class, and go in leggings and an oversized sweater. Which is at least a step up from the lazy uniform at my school: Uggs, leggings-as-pants, and school sweatshirt. That kind of ensemble is a horrible fate that I dread; everyone can have their comfy days on occasion, but there is just never a need for Uggs. And I tend to feel more energized when I get my shit together and put on real clothes, so I’m trying to keep laziness at bay by planning out complete outfits with multiple steps and accessories. I spent the whole week indulging in sloppiness because I was sick and it was really cold out, but now I am kicking myself into gear and saying no more! In that spirit, I chose the warmest day of the week, and put on… a dress.

And not only a dress, but a cute mini-sheath with a fun pattern and colorful accessories. Nothing feels better than getting my fashion fix after a such a sartorially-lacking week. The dress is something I picked up at Zara over the summer. Originally bought for a wedding, it transitions very nicely from formal to casual. I’m wearing it with my much-lauded Dior scarf, and a stripy, super-preppy belt that I think originally came with a pair of shorts from Limited Two… Which, if you don’t remember, was a mildly trashy kids clothing store that you may have shopped at in your early youth. I certainly did. Needless to say, that belt was not a waist belt when I originally bought it.

Here’s a close up shot of the belt in all of its glory. Also, as you have probably noticed, I am really into mixing patterns, and this shot gives you a nice look at the fictive leopard-ish print on the dress interacting with the paisley on the scarf and the stripes on the belt. I love mixing lots of colors and designs in an outfit, its a lot more fun than having to wear black on black on charcoal gray in order to feel chic.

And, because I haven’t added enough contrasting elements already, here’s a shot of my hand, freshly decked out with the blingy Banana Republic bracelet my boyfriend gave me for Christmas, my ring, and a coat of my favorite new seafoam-green nail-polish.

And, because I love the way my nail-polish and bracelet look together, one last close-up of this fanciness!

After a week of being sniffly and lame and feeling sorry for myself, dressing up cheers me up so much. That doesn’t mean I won’t be reaching for an oversized sweater again sometime next week, but it definitely feels good to wear pretty clothes right now.

New Jeans: One Small Step on My Journey to Becoming a 1960’s Icon

I’ve been offline for awhile now, thanks to a combination of factors, including losing my internet connection for a few days and coming down with a brutal cold. However, my pursuit of new clothing is unrelenting, so I’m behind on sharing a new and exciting purchase with the web.

I have made no secret of my intense admiration of the “it” girls of the 1960’s. As far as I’m concerned, the fashion industry as we know it began in the 1960’s. I’m not discounting the couturiers and milliners and bobby-soxers of other decades, I just think that we couldn’t have the cut-throat, glam, runway world that we have today without the likes of Twiggy, Edie, Audrey, and Jeans Shrimpton and Seberg. My interest in the mod aesthetic may also stem from my chronic breastlessness; I need a look that gives me the illusion of curves without requiring them in the first place. All of this adds up to my recent love affair with a pair of dungarees (to use the era-appropriate term) that I thought were lost to me forever.

I saw them once on a flashsale site, but they were already sold out. I waited for months til they resurfaced, and then I pounced. And now, they are mine!

Its not a great shot; as you can probably tell, its my reflection in a mirror. But it doesn’t matter! For behold, I own a pair of high-waisted James Jeans in the aptly-named “Twiggy” cut. For bonus points, I wore them with brown, heeled clogs that sadly look dumb with socks, and are thus no longer weather-appropriate.

I can’t even explain how pleased I am with this purchase. They’re the exact right length, they look rad, and they even create the illusion of a butt. I was slightly worried when they first arrived and they looked kind of baggy and sack-like about the hindquarters.

Fortunately, they are a masterwork of tailoring. They may look unprepossessing off, but fit like a dream on, because–like all carefully-made garments–thats what they were designed to do.

Best of all, now that I have attained denim success, I can transition the heck out of these. For the current below-freezing NY weather, I can add a cropped sweater, a scarf, and high-heeled boots. Once it gets a little warmer, I’ll swap for a blouse tied at the waist, and those clogs will get some more action. When summer hits, I can peg the jeans, go for a cropped tank and switch to platform sandals. So friggin’ versatile it kills me.

 

Menswear for Women: A DIY Experiment

Its been a pretty slow week for me, fashion-wise. Other than a brief trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, I’ve been fairly secluded while working at a winter job. Which is why I decided that this is a perfect week for some DIY trial-and-error; I have plenty of time and I don’t want to spend all my newly-earned money on clothes, since I’m trying to save up for a summer internship. Which is why, last weekend I went to a cool, reasonably-priced vintage shop nearby called Bananas, which is where all the local fashion geeks grew up shopping.   I picked up a couple of XXL men’s shirts with various interesting patterns for $8 a piece, and got to work.

Here is my first completed project, I should have taken a before picture, but lacked the foresight.

I retained most of the original structure, but tried to go in the direction of a sort of 1950’s sporty rockabilly dress. It should have been super simple to carry out, I essentially just lopped off the sleeves, hemmed the raw edges and took in the sides. However, I accidentally made it too tight-fitting across the bust and waist, and had already cut off all the extra fabric that I took in. Because I am a careless and self-taught seamstress. This meant that I had to add a wedge of fabric in the back and two in the front, which tested my limited sewing and tailoring skills. To add insult to injury, I was sewing by hand, as my sewing machine is missing a piece and I haven’t replaced it yet. Overall, the whole piece is a little bit makeshift and rickety, and I’m not sure I’ll ever wear it out, but it was a fun experiment! Plus, now I have a template in case I ever want to try it again, since I do really like the silhouette I ended up with.

Happy New Year! Or A Working Holiday in New York City

Once again, I am back from a fab jaunt to New York City. My first two days were excellent but busy. I worked in a very menial, all-hands-on-deck sort of way as an assistant-to-the-assistant-to-the-assistant on a project for a pop star. I was told to stem my gossipy nature and not give any details, but suffice to say that this is an extremely well-known individual. I was insanely thrilled to be there and stared like a fool the entire time. And the best part was that, once my top-secret adventures concluded, I still had New Year’s Eve to look forward to!

This was my first New Year’s with my boyfriend, in the sense that we were both in the same physical location. Last year, I was in Vancouver, which could have been cool, except  that I was by myself, and watching the ball drop three hours early doesn’t have quite the same effect. So again, this was a super exciting event for me. This year, my boyfriend and I went to a couple of parties, watched the ball drop, and got all dressed up. Actually, that last part may have just been me… I went for a Roaring Twenties vibe, in a lace-and-nude shift, black patent Oxford heels, and a red lip. It would have been deeply classy evening if we hadn’t spent most of the night engaged in a flip cup tournament, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

Other highlights of my NYC adventures include a dinner at Les Halles Downtown (which is a more laid-back offshoot of Anthony Bourdain’s Brasserie Les Halles) at which I sampled mussels and a celery root coleslaw that blew my mind. I was also treated to dinner at Tamarind Tribeca, which is a delicious Indian restaurant, and also serves as a downtown alternative to a larger flagship restaurant. Here I ate Kachori (lentil patties), Kashmiri Tikki (beetroot patties), Punjabi Tikhe Kabab (chicken with jalapenos and yogurt) and Pastooni Murgh (chicken with chilis, pistachios, and saffron), all of which were insanely tasty. When I include the homemade chicken curry salad provided by my boyfriend’s stepmother, this adds up to serious culinary success.

I also went to both high-and-low-brow movies, and visited the Museum of Natural History and the World Financial Center. I saw A Dangerous Method at the arty Sunshine Cinema, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol at Loews. I enjoyed both equally, but neither shook my world. Unlike the frogs exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, which totally kicked ass! My boyfriend and I may have been the only adults there not accompanied by a million screaming kids, but it was so worth the child-like regression. Conclusion: frogs are freaking awesome. As for the World Financial Center, simply gorgeous.

ALSO: it is important to note that there were some serious fashion highlights to my vacation as well, highlights which take the form of one hat, one purse, and one jacket.

This glorious creation is my brand-new Kangol hat. It was a freebie somebody received, and was unclaimed. Until I claimed it. And this ear-flapped fandango with its Russian vibe and faux fur was exactly what the doctor ordered for braving winter in NYC, and basically for looking fancy all of the time.

I have really begun to amass quite the collection of handbags, and this piece is shaping up to be a gem in my collection. I still love my Fossil bag best, but this suede Prada hand-me-down is a close second, and I love the boho chic, understated look of it.

Last but not least, this leather jacket is a much-needed addition to my closet. This actually predates my trip to New York, but I didn’t have time to post about it before I left. I found this at a consignment shop downtown, at a ridiculously huge discount thanks to the unseasonably warm autumn. Its Marc New York, the leather is butter-soft, and I bought it for $42. This is a garment which should retail for between $400 and $500. Its the tiniest bit too big in the shoulders, but even if I get it tailored, its still cheaper than any other leather jacket I’ve seen on the market. Besides, I’ve been looking for this kind of a piece, and a coat of this caliber–and at this price–doesn’t come around everyday.

In conclusion, this has been a rocking holiday season, and a bargain-hunter’s dream week. I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did!

Happy Boxing Day!

Today, in the aftermath of our Christmas celebration, my family had an excellent Boxing Day lunch. This is a British tradition brought to my family by my expat father, and is much more popular than any of his other British-isms, like pronouncing yogurt “yaw-gurt” and his  (incorrect) belief that Yes Minister is the most hilarious television show ever made.

In any event, I took this opportunity to break out some of my more fab gifts, which were later reluctantly photographed by my younger sister.

 

Here I’m wearing a new Cullen cashmere sweater over a blouse from the Gap, a high-waist skirt from Urban Outfitters, and rust-colored fishnets that I got at Topshop three years ago when I was doing a summer program at Cambridge. The shoes are also Urban Outfitters, and are one of my proudest thrifty coups. They were originally something like $200, and I stalked them online for about seven months, until I finally snagged them for $20. Here’s a better shot of what the shoes look like:

Not super-visible in the picture is my much-coveted Le Orange YSL lipstick mentioned here. Totally invisible is my Coco Mademoiselle perfume, but I’m telling you anyway cause fashion is a team sport and perfume is the…midfielder? Linebacker? Sports analogy? Whatever, its an integral part of the outfit. In this case, Coco Mademoiselle adds a little something to the whole schoolgirl-all-grown-up vibe that I was playing with. The final touch on the whole ensemble was this pair of glittery Eiffel Tower earrings, which lend themselves to my mostly neutral color scheme:

I was initially kind of bummed that the only people who would see this outfit were an unappreciative collection of elderly great-aunts and uncles, but I decided to take it two rounds and wear it out with my friends tonight, because I hardly ever get to wear these heels. Which means that now its time to reapply my YSL, lace up my party pumps and let the adventures commence!