Thursday, February 27, 2014

How to give a girl a heart attack in one very considerate step.

I purchased iteration one of my wedding dress in September, when I got the box I remembered noting how light the box was. Dress two arrived today and I felt like the box was much heavier so I checked the UPS notifications.

Dress version one - 2.8 lbs shipping weight.

Same dress in one size *smaller*, slight fabric change, purchased in February... 6 lbs?

I had the dress shipped to work and was going to wait until after to open the box but as the day went on I was starting to have visions of crossed shipments or the entire dress being in the wrong fabric.

Finally I caved (and by finally I mean it took less than an hour) and when I cracked it open I found... black heavy duty ripstop nylon with a 1 cm wide gold pinstripe???

The wedding is NOT Marching Band themed

Hello coronary!

Once my heart migrated back down into my chest cavity I looked UNDER the nylon and found my dress. *laughs* Apparently they had also sent me a VERY heavy duty garment bag! I hadn't gotten one with the first dress so this was a completely unexpected bonus.

I have since pulled the dress out, though I haven't yet tried it on and it appears to be up to spec, and by that I mean IT'S TOTALLY AMAZING.

Due to various reasons I had not yet started in on the garment bag I was making and I'm pretty glad of that, though I will probably still make something anyway as I would prefer there be a storage appropriate buffer between the nylon and the silk of the dress.

So exciting!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Nail Art Challenge #4 All is Full of Love

A stark Enamel White/Piano Black manicure inspired by the video for Bjork's All is Full of Love.

I thought of doing something more classically Valentine themed but just couldn't get the video out of my head. I decided instead to go really really stark and mechanical to match the gorgeous robots in the video and try a new technique while I was at it.

If you are not familiar with either the song or video they are both quite stunning.

All is Full of Love - Bjork (Director:Chris Cunningham)

Between dings, smearing, hairs getting stuck in my topcoat (twice!), and new tool learning curve I'm amazed this came out half so well as it did. This one fought me pretty much from beginning to end.

The colour and very slightly translucent finish of the Essie Marshmallow is just what I was looking for, but I would really like a white that is non-streaky in less than four(!) layers. I am too fidgety to dry, much less maintain nail polish this thick. Every second that I go without a fast dry top coat is another opportunity to get dings, and boy howdy did I ding this up. Luckily the colour was forgiving, but fixing mistakes never comes out quite right.

As far as the black, this was my first time using a striper brush, that was certainly an experience! I can't say as I'll be reaching for that tool again any time soon. I set the initial positioning by laying down tape to get the line straight which worked out pretty well, but it was not down flush (only as a guideline) so I had to pull it up to avoid  the black bleeding under. Even with a target line figuring out and maintaining the right position of my hands to get the brush at the best angle was incredibly awkward. And that was with my GOOD hand!

The black polish got sticky on the brush very fast so it was hard to work slow enough to keep things neat. I used topcoat over the white so I was able to use a file to clean up the black a bit once it dried, but even then the final layer of topcoat somehow smeared the black. *sigh* I did do the full design on both hands and the right came out shockingly good, but I had a lot more problems with smearing on the black on that hand.

You wouldn't think such a simple design would be so fiddly but there was very little room for mistakes here. In the end I'm pretty happy with how it came out, though I do think it would look much better if the white was not as built up. A vertical line probably would have been more flattering to the length of my nails but that would be too close to my last challenge mani.

I expect I will be removing this pretty soon as the white is not holding up well. The Poshe polish is easier in some ways but doesn't seem to hold up like Seche Vite. I think I may have to take down the length of my nails a bit as well as my typing accuracy is questionable even in the best of circumstances.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

My weekend wedding project

I got an email today informing me that my wedding dress is en-route and should be arriving Wednesday!

Adventure Time!

I have a tiny apartment with two cats that REALLY seem to like getting into my closet and batting at hangy things; so  the dress will be living at my parent's house.

I am not interested in an unplanned dramatic unveiling potentially involving the "design assistance" of my parent's three dogs; so the dress will ALSO be living in a garment bag.

pic via
Enter: my weekend project.

I have a butt-tonne(1) of unbleached muslin(2), mad sewing skills, and and a nearly embarrassing number of sewing machines. There's no way I'm paying someone for a pre-made garment bag, not when I can almost unquestionably do better.

Unfortunately I can't find DIY directions to precisely what I want to make. It would have a tie or button front rather than a zipper(3) and a pocket for random extras. I'm also interested in instructions for adding side gussets but I'm not 100% on that, I'm still contemplating whether I even need those. Foster-Stephens, Inc seems to be the main online source I've found for nicer muslin garment bags and there are some excellent examples here.

This instruction set by TheDreamstress seems like a pretty good starting point though, and I do appreciate seeing details like French seams. Archival items should have fussy details!

This instruction set from Historical costumer Genoveva has a really nifty fold and carry feature.

For anyone interested in sewing I HIGHLY recommend picking up two specific books on couture sewing. The first, Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire B. Shaeffer, is the more accessible book - I have an earlier version. The second is Couture: The Art of Fine Sewing by Roberta C. Carr, it is denser and the images are EIGHTIES-TASTIC but it does go into more detail.

Don't let the word couture scare you, what it boils down to is by having these books you will have a handy step by step reference for the "best practice" way of doing a number of sewing tasks. Once you know the "right" way of doing something you can then make your own decisions of how fussy and involved you want to get. Its a heck of a lot easier to decide what fussy details to leave out than to discover after the fact and try to make up for the essential step you've already missed.

I find it kinda funny (I find it kinda sad) that I have all of these random fussy sewing skills that I never use for anything I actually wear. I have been starting to think of what kinds of alterations my current wardrobe could use, so it'll be good to get back in the sewing... saddle?


(1) One of my favorite units of measure. My very favorite is similar but involves a very naughty word

(2) A loosely woven cotton fabric. Hooray for Joann' Fabric and Craft's 50% a single item coupons!

(3) I've caught the placket of my jacket in its own zipper FAR too many times to trust a zipper with a silk wedding dress. Also I really don't feel like paying more for a 72" zipper than I paid for enough fabric to make two of these bags.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pretty, predictable... pass.

My outfit probably makes me look extra short today, and you know what?

I don't care.

It's cold (*sigh*), it snowed today (*sigh* again), I'm wearing dark jeans and my grey old Navy V-neck sweater (*sigh*... again) with tall black boots and an orchid pashmina scarf.

I rolled my pants hems once to get through the snow to my car and just... decided to go with it. I just needed to do something different. Mid calf length anything is totally against "the rules" but what the hell, I figured I'd give it a shot. These boots don't show my small ankles as well as I usually like, but whatever, I'll deal.

Mah new boots - Nine West "Mixer" - check out the external zipper!
In my twenties I'd often wear fairly aggressive clothing. A typical go-to was punky knee high black combat boots with loose, below the knee cutoffs (yes, and suspenders) and I think this has a sleeker version of that same aggressive feel. I've been feeling out this sort of British motorist *thing* lately and I think I'm going in the right direction.

While the effect on my profile probably isn't ideal, over the course of the day something about it felt right, and I decided that what I sacrificed in silhouette I felt I had gained in feeling properly settled in my skin.

If everyone wore the same stuff the same optimized way there'd be no space for personal style.

I've gotten a lot of the basics of "don't actively hamstring yourself" down I think, so now I'm starting to get a feel for my actual style; as compared to what happens when I put my collection of generally reasonable but bland clothes together in the most predictably inoffensive way.

Some people feel you have to learn the rules before you can break them. I don't necessarily agree with this; there are definitely those for which the rules have NEVER applied, but for the rest of us there is some utility to the practice.

The Matrix (1999) The Woman in the Red Dress

When I was in high school I just plain didn't understand preppy style. Shirt from A column, pants from B, how boring! In my late twenties I embraced it, because it meant I generally looked presentable-ish but didn't have to think about what I was wearing.

Consequently I never had to think about what I was wearing.

Except when I wanted to look *good* as *I* defined it, that's when I felt like I had a wardrobe full of nothing. Sure you can put together something that follows all the rules and looks perfectly nice but that only works if you're just going for "nice".

There's a British woman named Florence Colgate who had been determined a few years ago to have a scientifically "perfect" face. Symmetrical and ideally proportioned she is most certainly pretty, but hardly what I would consider terribly interesting. In fact I consider her notably less interesting even then the other women most commonly listed as extremely close (i.e. Elizabeth Hurley, Kate Moss, Angelina Jolie, Jessica Simpson, Marlena Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, the Bust of Nefertiti).

How will she stack up through the ages against the sloe eyes of Myrna Loy, the unmistakeable square jaw of Sophia Loren, the generous mouth of Rosario Dawson, the unearthly angularity of Tilda Swinton?

When I mentioned Florence did you know instantly who she was? Could you bring her face to mind? Will you be able to do so in twenty years? What about Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, or Eartha Kitt?  Do you remember them because they are perfect, or because they are interesting?

These pics taken about two months apart differ only in the boots and scarf.
When I think back to these outfits which one of these makes me look more proportionate and nice, just like everyone else walking into the supermarket? Which one am I likely to remember and revisit?

Additional modeling talent provided by Quincey, nosy ginger cat extraordinaire.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Nail Art Challenge #3 - Fashion Week

I'm not gonna lie, I really wish I had been able to put this challenge off until a bit later in this week as I really have not been terribly keen on the collections I've seen so far.  Luckily something about this particular look by Custo Dalmau caught my attention just in time.

Overall it's a bit much but the base lines are pretty cool. I have done a vertical fuchsia and nude look before and really enjoyed it so I thought it'd be cool to revisit and tweak.

Also I want those purple aviators something fierce.

Like seriously. Reflective purple aviators. Now.

I translated that look into a curvy vertical neon and nude (almost a putty, really) with black triangular accents.

I resisted the urge to tape it off in favor of free-handing and in retrospect I'm regretting that. I had texture issues with all the coloured polishes and that made it very difficult to clean up my lines. In the bottle and in the pic the fuchsia is perfect, but in real life it is noticeably more purple. Still a great colour for me, but not exactly what I was aiming for. The coverage on the Ulta nude is outstanding and it leveled beautifully, but the thickness made it difficult to manipulate the line.

I was originally planning to go much larger on those triangles and add a bit of purple at the base if possible, but no battle plan survives contact with the enemy (Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder 1800-1891). I keep planning out designs and then realizing that even when my nails are on the longer side I have very little space to execute them.

Okay, I just checked and the nails on the swatching wheels I have are nearly the size of my thumbnail! No wonder I am having problems with my design scaling.

What? I'm a child of the 80s.
I do really like the use of transparency in fashion lately and was originally thinking of doing something in a sheer and black windowpane like this gown from Christian Siriano (one of the few pieces so far that's really stuck with me this season) but just couldn't figure out how to do it justice without the giant pile striping tape that is currently on order and certainlytakingitssweettimetogethere.


I also really liked the tone on tone marbled look on some of Siriano's other dresses and it gives me some ideas for experiments in water marbling.

In all I'm not terribly thrilled with this particular look, but I learned a few things and have some ideas for the future so I'm calling it a positive learning experience.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Faking a fair weather flat

It's been snowing. *sigh* Again.

Sandal weather isn't even a distant glimmer on the horizon, and flats are like masterful little precipitation collectors; so sometime around mid December I started asking myself, "what I do for my feet when I'm ankle-(or knee)-deep in winter but still want to look good"? 

When I started really thinking about it the answer was right in front of me the whole time, and yet has proven to be so hard to find!

I'm fond of my bones and skin (and my shoes come to think of it) so all of my high heels are right out. I need a foul weather shoe with a low heel for stability and smooth enough treading on the bottom that snow and ice doesn't pack up into the treads as that ends up being cold, dangerous, and messy.

I have a pair of Born half calf boots in a tobacco pebbled leather which are exactly what I outline above. They are comfortable and serviceable but they are so very decidedly comfortable and serviceable. That's them up there, if you hadn't already guessed. I got them for camping and outdoors stuff and they're really honestly FABULOUS for that, and that is the only way in which they could ever be described as fabulous. I don't actually like them in the least, but that's what I've been wearing any time the weather has been bad since that's pretty much all I've got that won't lead to a broken neck.

Actually not 100% true. I do have a pair of Cherry Red Patent Doc Marten's which do surprisingly well in snow as long as I'm wearing heavy socks, but I'm just not into them at the moment.
What? I'm a goth AND they were on sale AND I had a bit of a red shoe *thing* going on at the time. So shiny!

Knee high riding boots are a long established Northeast winter essential, but I don't tend to wear my boots fully visible in crappy weather. I only have one pair of skinny jeans and none of my boots are wide enough to wear over them except the Born boots, and that is NOT a good look (yes, I've checked).

Image Source:
What I've been looking for is something that looks as good with full length or slightly cuffed pants as they would over skinnies. Equestrian boots are gorgeous when you can SEE them, but I spent the majority of my twenties in knee high combat boots and frankly, I'm just plain tired of dropping hundreds of dollars on low heeled boots that don't have any interest below the ankle. 
I want winter appropriate kicks that make a statement no matter what I'm wearing them with!

During good (but not quite sandal) weather when I want to wear flat shoes that look nice I reach for...

*drumroll* my flats

I know that seems obvious but flats really tend to be a different kind of creature with different points of interest than sandals or pumps or boots, and I got to wondering what it was that set them apart. 
Desperately in need of a shoeshine day! I don't think it's hard to figure out which is my go-to pair.
Left to right: Miz Mooz - Ditto, Candies, Born - Keynes, Croft & Barrow, Croft & Barrow
Flats come in all manner of colours and rich materials and they they are very likely to have some manner of interest on the toe, whether that be a contrasting material, a bow, a horse bit, some intricate structural detailing, or openwork. They look equally great with jeans, shorts, skirts, you name it, because they are usually interesting to look at, even if you can only see the toe.
I started looking at boots with an eye to this aesthetic and found that people just don't tend to put that sort of detailing on the toe of a low heeled boot. Well, except in Western boots, there are some AMAZING western boots out there, but that's not really my style.

So far the only boots I've found which start to fulfill the perimeters I've been looking for are wingtip designs. The Megan ankle boot by Miz Mooz, which I got for Christmas in the whiskey colour shown below is a great example of this style with some bonus spat-like buttony/lacey ankle action. Admittedly I'm not the hugest wingtip fan and I feel the really sexy parts are those further up near the ankle, but at least it has SOMETHING going on!

I'm still a bit afraid to wear them out into the deeper snow but I have gotten them wet and the colour seems to have bounced back just fine. If anything they're getting a lovely dark patina around the bottom edge. I do want to weather protect them, but clear wax drastically changed the colour of another pair of Miz Mooz boots I own (Janessa in grey - a discontinued style) so I'm iffy about messing with these too much.

 My next goal is to find a second pair of "knee high statement flats" but this time I'm looking for a looser, taller, non-wingtip boot with a lower heel, preferably in black or charcoal as I've somehow ended up with more pairs of brown boots than black!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Nail arsenal part one - which has very little to do with nails, actually

I got a specific request on my Facebook to do a nail primer post and I've had a number of private discussions about it, apparently there's a real manicure knowledge gap!

There is surprisingly little nail specific info on this post (bear with me) so if you're at all curious about how I care for my (non face) skin you're in the right place.

This post is all about groundwork. If you want manicures that stand up to daily life and look great you need skin and nails that do the same, or you're just whizzing into the wind.

I did do an earlier nail polish post so if you want to know more about how I got so into this whole thing stop over there and give it a read.

Please note that I'm not an expert and a lot of nail products are fairly new to me so I'm still learning their ins and outs. I can generally get a pretty good result, but with any body products personal chemistry is crucial and what works for me may not be ideal for you.

More after the jump: