Below the Knee

Here are those amazingly versatile Modern Vintage boots again, this time making an appearance with the cuffs folded to just below the knee. With the cuffs at this height, they stick out a little further and give the boots a pirate-like look, as opposed to when I wear them folded further down like this. I know it's tough to tell from the photos, but in person the effect is much more noticeable.

While we're on the subject of versatility, this little dress turned out to have far more of it than I ever imagined it would. Every time I've worn it I've assumed it was the last completely original variation I could come up with and the next wearing would have to be a repeat of a previous one, but so far it hasn't happened yet. For a retrospective on the ways I've styled this dress so far, check out the photos below.

Which outfit is your favorite?

Scarf: Duke et Duchess
Shirt: H&M
Dress: Orla Kiely
Boots: Modern Vintage

Thigh High

Thigh high boots -- holy crap, am I really this trendy? Well, it turns out that I am and I didn't even realize it until a few days ago. This is actually just my trusty pair of Modern Vintage boots that I've worn about a million times, only it recently dawned on me that I could flip up the folded cuffs and voila! I've got my very own pair of thigh high boots. I've had these suckers in my closet for a full 2 years, that's how ahead of the trends I am.

I wore this outfit for Girls' Night Out after yesterday's Libby Smith ensemble. As you can see, the only piece that carried over from day into evening was the vest. The real star of the show was the boots, of course, and I wanted to take a moment to elaborate on why I think a pair like this is a worthwhile investment.

This season it appears that thigh high boots are going to be all the rage, but before you run out and snap up a pair, it's worth considering how versatile they'll be once the trend dies down. I've seen very few pairs that are under the $200-300 range (and far more pairs that are well above it), and if you're going to drop that kind of coin on a pair of boots, it's worth having a style that won't look outdated after just one season. These Modern Vintage boots turned out to be ideal because the cuff can be worn in multiple positions: just below the knee, folded further down for a classic equestrian look, or flipped all the way up as I've shown here for an above-the-knee length. For me it was just a lucky break, but if you're in the market for thigh highs this season, you have an opportunity to make a solid investment with versatility and timelessness in mind. This is yet another way to avoid buyer's remorse!

Boots with foldable cuffs abound this season, but I thought I'd share a few of my picks from Amazon and Endless that I think would function well as either a cuffed equestrian or a sexy above-the-knee:

Pura Lopez L101-B, $398
Pour La Victoire Rena, $209

Apepazza Cagliari, $329
Via Spiga Brook, $256

Introducing Libby Smith

I'd like to introduce you to my new friend, Libby Smith. Libby is one of the beautiful new shoe styles from John Fluevog, and she captivated me when I wandered into the Haight Street store a couple of weekends ago. Libby fills the wardrobe gap of "green, low-heeled boots" that I had been trying to fill for ages, and she's got just the sort of Victorian vibe to compliment so many of my current styling tendencies. I was particularly smitten with her navy blue buttons, which compliment the 2-tone olive green leather so beautifully. Libby, you are a most welcome addition to my wardrobe.

I slapped this outfit together in the morning before work, and in retrospect I feel like the tights were a bit much given the busy print of the shirt. But the weather was still chilly, and lacey olive tights were the best I could come up with on short notice. Whatevs; I never worry too much about such things because I never repeat outfits anyway. I had a reason to wear the new shoes, and that was good enough for me. However, I have mentally added non-patterned olive tights to my shopping list for the next time I place an order with Sock Dreams.

Vest: Steam Trunk
Shirt: La Redoute
Skirt: Noa Noa
Tights: Biella
Shoes: John Fluevog

The Final Countdown

You can tell I was feeling more than a little cheeky when I took the photos for this outfit. The reason? I was listening to a whole playlist of 80's music, and when I was shooting this one it was "The Final Countdown." I'm not exactly sure why a hair-band rock anthem made me want to strike such saucy poses; perhaps it was because I was remembering the time I drunkenly karaoke'd that song in Tokyo at the insistence of my friends. For the record, my vocal range is nowhere near high enough to sing that song; nevertheless I belted it out and even jumped up on the table to sing it while pumping the air with one raised fist. I blame jetlag.

Ahem. Let me tell you about the outfit, shall I? This top is really tricky to work with because the color is exceptionally bright, and I have absolutely nothing else in my closet that is even close to this shade. I wanted to avoid pairing it with black because I feared it would make the green look garish, so I went with a navy backdrop instead. The green actually has quite a bit of blue in it, so the combination makes sense. Since I didn't want to bring in an entirely different third color, I mixed up the outfit a little by blending different shades of blue.

The sweater clip is one I made ages and ages ago, but until now I hadn't found a use for it. With this outfit it was an absolute necessity; the flower detail on the top prevents the cardigan from being buttoned, but I really needed the cardigan to stay closed so as to hide the incredible tackiness of my bra straps hanging out. Have I mentioned that I abhor strapless bras? The reason is that I don't have a whole lot to hold them up, so I find myself having to hike them up several times a day; as a result I often seek out creative ways to wear regular bras even with strapless or halter-style tops.

By the way, if you'd like to make a cardigan clip of your own, this excellent post from Kasmira will show you how it's done.

Cardigan: H&M
Top: Red Dress Shoppe
Skirt: Moon Collection
Shoes: Paolo

Ebb and Flow

It's interesting how items seem to ebb and flow in my wardrobe. There are things I've had in there untouched for ages and ages, and then suddenly I find myself wearing them all the time again. Such is the case with this bright pink flower clip; I think last week was the first time it's seen the light of day in at least a year, and now here I am wearing it again just a few days later. Such is the hazard of having a huge wardrobe: you often can't keep track of everything in it.

The clip started out life as a pin on a flirty cocktail dress. I thought it had way more potential as a clip, so I took the pin backing off and attached the flower to a hair clip. This way I can wear it in my hair or attach it to clothing, including the original dress. In this outfit, the folds of the skirt created the perfect spot to attach the clip, because it looks like the flower is the attachment point for the drape of fabric.

This outfit was carefully designed to prevent the dreaded 'floating in space' effect that can happen when you wear a bright top over a solid black skirt or pants. First, I chose gray tights over black ones to bring some value contrast and depth to the bottom half of the outfit, rather than letting it be stark black the whole way down. Next, I used the pink flower and burgundy pettipants to add some color to the skirt. Finally, I blended some black into the top of the outfit by layering the black t-shirt underneath the pink top.

Many people think of a bright top with a black skirt or pants as a no-brainer combination, but in reality it's one of the toughest looks to pull off. Black isn't a very well-mannered neutral; it contrasts sharply against most everything else and can easily sap the vibrancy from your outfit, so it's important that the black makes sense with the other color. Here, I brought my bright colors into the bottom half of the outfit and the black into the top. Thus the skirt is no longer just a black skirt, but a pink, burgundy, and black one, because the flower, pettipants and skirt can be considered as one piece. In this way black is used as a vehicle with which to highlight brighter colors rather than allowing it to work against them.

Top and skirt: Attila Designs
Belt: Red Dress Shoppe
Black shirt: H&M
Pettipants: Glam Garb by Gunlis
Boots: All Black

Dye Another Day

Remember this dress from several months ago? Back then it was a drab oatmeal color and a size too big. Since then I've had it altered to fit me and dyed it a fun shade of green, and I'm pretty pleased with the results. It has much more of a mod trenchcoat feel to it now, which I tried to play up here by adding the vintage 60's shirt.

The dyeing process was a lot of work, but well worth it for the excellent results. The dye I used was a fiber reactive dye from the Dharma Trading Company. The dye only works on natural fibers, so it colored the linen fabric beautifully while leaving the off-white topstitching, plastic buttons, and nylon lining intact (as a bonus, it didn't stain the sink either). This gives it a very professional appearance; in fact, you'd be hard pressed to discern that it wasn't made this way originally. Click the picture at left if you want a close up of my handiwork -- the pop-up photos are all zoom-able too.

Before I started this project I knew literally nothing about dyeing clothes. For instance, I was completely ignorant of the fact that there were several other supplies I needed besides just the dye (shame on me for not reading the directions before I ordered the dye!). Thus, I ended up having to place 2 orders, one for the dye and one for the soda ash, Calsolene oil, and a few other things. However, now I've got all the stuff I need to do lots more dyeing, so with the exception of different colors I'm all set for whatever other projects I want to try. I'm thinking this will be a great way to transform pieces that either are a light color and getting dingy, or that I'm just tired of. Just as a simple coat of paint can completely transform a room, a different color can make old clothing new again.

Shirt, dress: thrifted
Boots: Bata
Brooch: vintage Trifari

Riding Habit

This skirt has an interesting history. I bought it a couple years ago, when bubble skirts were first emerging as a trend. Originally the plaid top layer was gathered in, tucked under and sewn to the bottom ruffled layer, giving it a bubble shape. But as much as I adored the crinkly plaid fabric and the ruffle-hemmed lining, and as cute as the skirt looked in the online photos, the shape just didn't suit my figure when I put it on. Having ordered it from La Redoute in France, I was loathe to try to send it back, so it just hung there in my closet after I wore it maybe once. A few times I pulled it out and tried to work with it, but it just didn't look right no matter what I tried.

Months and years went by, and there it hung. Finally I decided to try to unload it on eBay, figuring that at least if I recouped a little bit of money then I wouldn't feel so bad about the whole episode. But the skirt didn't sell, and so it then sat for several more months in a seldom-used drawer. Last week I opened up that drawer, saw the skirt, and had an epiphany: I would simply cut the two layers apart and hem the skirt, thereby losing the bubble shape and reducing some of the fullness.

An hour or so of cutting and sewing later, I was finished, and lo and behold, it worked! The fullness is now concentrated at the bottom hem instead of around my thighs where it had been before. Though the change is subtle, to me it makes all the difference in the world, and I'm now thrilled with how the skirt looks and feels. Pairing it with my brown boots and saddle belt brings out the English riding habit vibe that made me love the skirt in the first place.

So what would I have done differently? Well, I think I would still take a chance and order something I loved, even if I was certain I wouldn't return it if I didn't like it. What I would change is not to be afraid of exploring other options for the item if it didn't work out, even if those options included taking the scissors to it. I could've foreseen even when ordering the skirt that changing it to a non-bubble shape would be a super easy fix; a few moments spent thinking about that when I placed the order might have spared me from living with a mostly unworn item in my wardrobe for far too long.

Lace top: Dark Garden
Olive top: Susina
Belt: Audra Jean
Boots: Bata

Hoist Your Freak Flag

For awhile now I've been hounding Mark to create some guest posts for my blog, firstly because men's fashion is sorely underrepresented in the blogging world, and secondly because I'm trying to bring some variety to the blog by sprinkling in guest posts and other features in addition to the daily outfits. So without further ado, here is Mark's contribution.

Very little separates one shirt or pants, or even shoe from another, and visitors from other planets would conclude that most every male human shops for clothes at exactly the same three places. I was at a festival this summer on the Central Coast, and I noticed that the guys were almost lockstep uniform in their expression of individuality. Through clenched teeth I muttered that the sight of one more RVCA hoodie and generic graphic t-shirt was going to send me over the edge. I had visions of sabotaging them with Supersoaker filled with highlighter pink paint, the way animal rights activists stain baby seals to keep furriers from clubbing them to death.

Fortunately, I live in a San Francisco where people can wear literally whatever they want and not be a freak. Well, at least if they are they have plenty of company. Guys not only can get away with wearing things outside of the proverbial box, it is encouraged. There are plenty of local designers to fill a growing demand for creative stuff that doesn’t look like it came from a mall or a department store, but also isn’t cheesy costume wear. Another source to find unique and interesting looks is in combining vintage items with new ones.

I confess it’s taken me a while to work up the nerve to be a little different. I might be noticed (gasp). It’s best done gradually so as not to shock the cerebro-nervous system and cause painful separation anxiety with your current wardrobe, most items of which look just like the next one. One example of versatile and colorful menswear I found not long ago is a vintage, early to mid 1960’s suit. It was deadstock, meaning it was still brand new, never worn, and older than I am. The blazer is a dark yellow plaid pattern with green and blue pinstripes, and the pants are a solid dark gold. I found it by chance, and it fit as though it had been custom tailored for me. Women seem to know more than men do when clothing is just meant to go live with them. This was one of those.

The suit is remarkably versatile, and by mixing different combinations I can get at least a half dozen or more outfits with it. First, it works great as a suit with a solid matching shirt and color-compatible tie, and a pair of vintage oxblood wingtips – all of which I found at thrift stores. Secondly, the suit can be casualized such as pictured with a pair of jeans, a blue-striped Nautica shirt, and a pair of red and green John Fluevog shoes.
Also shown here, it can be dressed up modern-like with a pair of new Heathen jeans with a side-stripe, a black & yellow striped Marimekko shirt, and classic black boots by Frye. Even the look of the matched jacket and pants of the suit changes dramatically with a bolder shirt and contrasting tie, such as the pictured red-white vintage shirt. To completely change the look, I swapped the jacket for a vintage teal one, and slipped into some dark brown modern Rockports.

Shopping for vintage clothing or even thrifting is mostly an exercise in patience and training your eyes to see past the mountains of crap, but it's worth the effort.

Black Widow

I've owned this black lace dress for years and years; it was one of those long-standing favorites that I had tucked away in a dress bag and stashed under my bed for safe keeping. Along with my 90's rompers that I turned into mini-dresses, this was one of those things I pulled from the vaults with the intention of reworking it somehow.

The dress is a Betsey Johnson and was originally purchased sometime around 1993. It also came with an opaque black slipdress that goes underneath, which I still use as a slip fairly often. The black lace completely transforms the look of this 50's-style red dress, giving it much more of a goth quality than I'd ever thought possible. I kept the rest of the outfit simple so as not to overdo it; after all, black and red makes quite a statement on its own. I left my legs bare despite the frigid Bay Area temperatures, because I felt that even sheer black hose would look too gloomy.

The dress is obviously meant to be buttoned all the way down, but I wanted to use the stark contrast between the two dresses to create the illusion of an hourglass shape, which I don't actually have. The 'V' shapes that I created by unbuttoning the black dress above and below the elastic belt are accentuated by the saturated red underneath. I think the red hourglass shape also makes me look a little like a black widow. If only I had all those handy extra limbs -- just think how many more tattoos I could get!

Red dress: J. Crew
Belt: Red Dress Shoppe
Shoes: Steve Madden

Something Studded

I originally planned this outfit with bare legs in mind, but the persistent cold weather necessitated a last-minute swap. These boots had just arrived in the mail the day before, so I thought I'd try them out.

I'd had my eye on these boots for many months, but wasn't willing to pay full price for a brand I'm unfamiliar with. Then last week I was poking around on looking for something studded, and these turned up on clearance; between the additional $20 off that Endless was offering and the 6% rebate I'll get from Fat Wallet, they came out to less than half the original price.

I like the fact that the studs on these boots are fairly subtle; to me this bodes well for them not looking hopelessly dated 3 months down the road. So many of the studded items I've seen in recent months seem to have been created on the belief that if a little is good, then a lot is better. These boots already have a biker vibe going on, so to me a little goes a long way when it comes to additional embellishments. By the way, the boots are really comfortable and the tops have a clever overlapping construction, which makes them able to fit different sized calves without the need for elastic. The leather is buttery and supple and the construction seems to be good quality; I would order this brand again.

Cardigan: Solemio
Scarf and flower both came with other garments
Shirt: Max Studio
Pants: Poleci
Boots: All Black