1.17.2017

Nearly Complementary



Since I've been dressing myself, my life has been marked and measured by the clothing I've worn. 

In adolescence, there were lots of olive green tops, overalls, and carpenter's jeans-- a style shaped by a decided effort to fit in. When my efforts at normal proved futile, the next era (teenagerhood) was spent trying to stand out with a dark abundance of black lace, vinyl, combat boots, spiked collars, and layers of inexpertly applied black makeup. 

Tired of all the doom and gloom of high school, my early college days saw a brief transitional era of ripped jeans and dreadlocks and a struggle to forge my very own style identity. Unable to craft a truly satisfying look on my own, I began looking elsewhere for inspiration--  all it took was a 40s polka dot dress to usher in the next era of personal style (my 20s) and start my long romance with vintage clothing.







I have few regrets about any era in my personal style history. 

Each section of time is directly shaped by what came before and directly shapes what follows. Without the struggles of adolescence, there would be no angsty goth years, without all the black, there would be no (slightly cringey) dreadlocks, without those locks, there would be no vintage, and without vintage.... well, the future is still unclear but the evolution is ongoing.

We cannot move forward without looking back; we cannot celebrate the present nor the future without acknowledging the past.







My closet, as it stands, stretched between NY and NC, is something akin to a geologic record with each garment like a layer of rock strata, representing each era of my fashion history, molded and shaped by the events of my life. 

As time passes, layers of my fashion strata become compressed, reduced to make way for the garments of present day. If you look hard enough, you can still find evidence of each era-- a blouse here, a sweater there, with a heavy helping of my goth years (the largest preceding era), standing as a shiny, black layer of obsidian in the record of my life.  

Lucky for me, and unlike rock columns of geologic record, my record has yet to solidify meaning that not only can I acknowledge the past, I can borrow from it. 

This outfit pays homage to a couple different eras in my fashion history: the sheer black blouse from that era of all black (henceforth referred to as the obsidian era-- yes, I quite like that), the patterned Avon skirt from early on in the era of vintage and the sweater and turtleneck from late in the era of vintage, perhaps later to be referred to as the thrift store era. 

Together, all these elements combine to form what might represent an entirely new style era or are perhaps components of an outfit of passing fancy-- time will tell.




Purple sweater-- thrifted, Monsoon
Goldenrod turtleneck-- thrifted,  Twenty One
Sheer black blouse-- lux
Skirt-- thrifted, Avon
Tights-- Angelina via Amazon
Booties-- Clarks


Putting this outfit together, I was inspired by the mix of patterns in my last post, and a determination to wear the sheer black blouse and still look seasonal. 

Though I had put together the outfit on hangers, once I had it on, I began to doubt my choices of nearly complimentary colors and tried on nearly every other sweater and jacket in my closet. Eventually, I ended up back at my original pairing, finding the contrast of colors much more pleasing than just throwing on a black jacket and calling it done (as would have previously been my inclination).

I wore this ensemble to Wilmington to run some errands and to get a much needed (and much dreaded) haircut-- my first professional cut in over a year!



1.10.2017

Short Pants and Snoods


Working from home is a strange thing. 

Some days, I may only leave the house to get the mail, walk the dogs or tend to the yard, others I might be traipsing across the countryside, making post office runs and attending auctions, estate sales, and flea markets. 
More often than not, during an average work week, my in-person human interaction is limited to my beau and perhaps a neighbor or the post office clerk.   

While this sort of reclusive lifestyle suits my introverted nature, it has also taken a rather significant toll on my already impaired social skills and has, surprisingly, greatly shaped my wardrobe.

Not having to leave home on a daily basis doesn't mean I'm shuffling around the house in a dressing gown all day but it also doesn't mean I wrapped up in my vintage finest either. 




On the back of my closet door, there are several hooks-- one for each aspect of my rotating work from home wardrobe. On one hook hangs my pajamas, the next: exercise clothing for my morning skates around the neighborhood, the next: a pair of grubby cargo pants and a flannel button up for yard work and messy projects, and on the fourth hook is a pair slacks, a top/sweater and a snood-- my work uniform.

Most often, that fourth hook contains a pair of thrifted, side-zip, short pants, which, if run by a fashion consultant, would be one of the first things eliminated from my wardrobe simply because they break all the rules for thick legs and ample ankles.

Since summertime, these rule-defying black and white checked short pants have been my absolute favorite, paired with nearly every top and sweater I own. 
They are my equivalent to the ever-popular legging and the height of lazy fashion for me. Throw on a snood to contain my unruly mane and glasses to camouflage my makeup-less eyes, a swipe of lipstick, and voila-- it looks as if I have truly made an effort. 

   


I did actually leave the house in this get-up, deciding at the last minute to throw on one of Mrs. Bolton's jackets on my way out the door. 
While I always love these pants no matter what they're paired with, it's because of the jacket that I truly loved this outfit. 

I'm always quite hesitant to mix colors and patterns for fear it will come off more like I got dressed in the dark rather than having eccentric taste, but I feel like this mix of the chartreuse sweater with the olive and yellow jacket, the diamond pattern with the square checks, somehow all works out, connected perhaps by that common thread of black and white. 


Because I love it so, this ensemble will now enter the rotation on the fifth hook on my closet door-- the one for wear in public beyond the post office and grocery store, next time paired with a leg-slimming heel or d'Orsay flat. 


Jacket-- Mrs. Bolton
Chartruese sweater-- Banana Republic (thrifted)
Slacks-- thrifted
Black moccasins-- Rack room, brand unknown




1.02.2017

Let Us Be Merry: Christmas 2016

Chrismas dress-- thrifted vintage Montgomery Ward


Christmas has come and gone and for the first time in my life, I am thankful. 

In the past, the holiday season was always something I looked forward to so fondly-- the warmth, the wonder and the simple magic of the season. 
As a child, there was always such a sense of hope and possibility at Christmas time-- Santa was real, reindeer could fly, and anything could happen. 
The magical residue of childhood Christmas lingered into adulthood for me, the last glittering specks of it kept alive by Decembers spent working as an elf, the specks revived each year after that by decorating a house of my own and getting engaged. 

Now, as an "old" married woman, living away from family with a man whose childhood magic fizzled out long ago, it's increasingly hard to revive that Christmas sparkle once again. 
So, while Halloween in 2016 was brought back from the dead, Christmas of '16 languished and I just didn't have it in me to resuscitate it this year. 



We did try, though-- inviting a formerly live tree into our home (for the first time since we got engaged four Christmases ago) thinking that pine scent would lift my spirits. And, while I did enjoy the tree's smell and presence in our home, I was simultaneously eager to be rid of it and guilty for spending so much on something that would just be tossed away after a few weeks.

Even the cats weren't feeling Christmas: Olladene was not amused by her felted Christmas tree hideaway.


Ebenezer with my beloved Christmas cat pillow from childhood (handmade by my mom)

New additions to the tree this year: stingray and manatee ornaments sent by my aunt




The highlight of the Christmas decorating this year, for both my beau and I, was setting up a ceramic tree made by his grandmother that we found while clearing out her estate at the beginning of 2016. When we found it, our first thoughts were to sell it in the shop since we already had a ceramic tree of our own, but, when I saw her initials carved into the base, I just couldn't part with it. 

And though my beau will deny having any sentimental attachment to such an object, I think he's pretty glad to have something of his grandma's around the house for the holiday, and so am I.

Elsie's tree



Our ceramic tree and the Putz house version of our house I made last year

I have always loved ceramic trees, I remember playing with the little lights on my grandmother's tree and setting up the tree that sat in the front window in the office of the family business as a child. I'm really not sure what it was about them, perhaps it was their tiny stature-- a tree just my size, or all those little pieces to play with, but I always thought they were wonderful. 

With two trees in the house already, I sense a collection developing-- perhaps I'll try my hand at making one for next year.



I love how this little dome turned out in the bathroom, this snowman is one of my favorites.



We spent Christmas eve and day in the company of friends as we have for the last few years--
it's hard to believe that this was our sixth Christmas spent away from family. There is such a nice ease and simplicity to our holidays spent here, we aren't dividing our time between families or rushing from one gathering to another. 
For that ease, I now realize that we may have traded some of the tradition and ceremony that comes with the season and perhaps, with that, some of that old holiday magic as well.

Perhaps it's time for new holiday traditions and perhaps, if I'm lucky, some new holiday magic will follow.

11.01.2016

Madame Fortuna

One Halloween, years ago now, I distinctly remember sitting on a sidewalk outside a bar in my college town, nursing a skinned knee and torn fishnets, and thinking, with disappointment, "so this is the end of Halloween." 
It was my first Halloween after graduation and I didn't really know what to do with myself. That year was one of my first without something to decorate, an event to plan, and I was far too big for trick-or-treating. Finding myself a little lost and without an outlet for my Halloween creativity, I directed my efforts and excitement into constructing an elaborate costume, the bearded lady, which was neither understood or appreciated by the college crowd. 
That night made two things clear to me: I had outgrown the college scene, and Halloween, the most beloved of holidays, was over for me.

This year, seven years after my sidewalk revelation, Halloween is back from the dead and better than ever, thanks to Madame Fortuna.



Of course, Halloween never actually died. In the years between my revelation and this year's resurrection, I have celebrated-- decorating the house and treating trick-or-treaters, but it's never felt quite right; it has always been missing that something special, that bit of excitement and magic the occasion had in my youth.

About a month ago, I found my brain bubbling with all these Halloween ideas: cemeteries, fog machines, ghosts, grim reapers-- real spooky stuff. I'm not sure exactly when Madame Fortuna entered the picture, but once she did, I knew this was just the interactive experience I was looking to create. 



After settling on the fortune teller theme, I began buying up every thrift store bed sheet I could find to make my fortune teller's tent. A few dye baths and one frantic sewing session later and I had enough purple striped fabric to stretch all the way around a popup canopy we were given for our wedding. I also found a dust ruffle that was trimmed with gold tassels that were perfect for trimming the edge of the gold canopy.





For the crystal ball, I picked up a very inexpensive milk glass light fixture and added a remote control, color-changing, LED light bulb. My beau wired it all up for me and I hid the remote under the tablecloth so I could change the colors and turn it on and off at will. 
I also took the opportunity to display a bit of my uranium glass collection illuminated under blacklight.




Using magnets, large pieces of black muslin, a construction light, and the moon I made for my wedding, I put together a little photo opportunity on the garage door. Several folks stopped and snapped a few pictures of their kids-- finally, the moon got some use as it was intended!



We had a rather low trick-or-treater turnout this year, but those that did stop by were really great-- some even came through a second time! It was so fun gazing into the crystal ball and "telling" the future. Highlights of the night were a group of young teenage girls that I told would be lucky in love (after my usual Halloween fortune), and a girl who, by the end of her visit with me, was convinced she had magic powers of her own.

In my little life, there have been so many memorable experiences and people, that have helped to create a sense of magic and wonder in this world. I realize now that, even if it is just on Halloween, I have the power to create one of those experiences for someone else. 




I really have to hand it to my beau, he's been so very patient with this whole project. He's not the kind of guy that particularly values creative endeavors or decorative excess (we're totally flipsides of the same coin) but he knew how important this was to me and I think he genuinely appreciated seeing the trick-or-treaters' reactions. 
Hopefully next year he'll want to put on a costume and join in the fun!

Speaking of next year, I'm already scheming. I'd love to put together a cemetery, complete with that fog machine I've always wanted, and have kids walk through it to get to Madame Fortuna's tent.

I'll have to hold off making gravestones for now though as our future is a bit unclear and another job change (and a possible location change) is on the horizon yet again. 
How nice it would be if Madame Fortuna's crystal ball could really reveal the future.





10.24.2016

The Atlantic





Looking at these pictures now, less than a week after they were taken, it's hard to believe the weather permitted short sleeves and bare legs at the beach. 

Summer does not fade out gracefully in these parts, nor does it immediately concede to autumn come the passing of the equinox. The change of seasons here, on the coast, is a battle-- stretches of summer weather, punctuated by days of plunging temperatures and delightful sweater weather, only to have summer rear its head again. Generally, come Thanksgiving, autumn will have triumphed, claiming its victory for a few short weeks before war with winter is declared.  

A few weeks ago, Hurricane Matthew brought us a heavy dose of sweater weather. Days before his arrival, in the calm before the storm, the air was thick with sticky tropical humidity-- souvenirs from his journey through Haiti, the Bahamas, and the Floridian coast. As he pushed past us, he left behind all that cool dry continental air that he had consumed throughout his travels, the air that in fact had weakened him and saved us from catastrophe.



Unlike our inland neighbors, we fared surprisingly well here on the coast of North Carolina. We were spared Matthew's immense rain shield and his hurricane force winds and were able, once he had passed, to resume life as usual (after we cleaned up some downed branches and trees). The beach, however, was not quite so lucky as I discovered on my twilight stroll several nights ago. In spots, Matthew's massive waves devoured the dunes leaving little more than minute mounds where mountains of sand once stood. 



Matthew rolled into town on a Saturday, leading with a torrent of rain and departing with howling winds in his wake. All the while the storm lashed our home, I sat in our spare room piecing together a skirt from a swath of thrifted novelty fabric that celebrated the mother of all hurricanes, the mighty Atlantic ocean.

After the storm passed, it was so cold I was worried I'd have to wait to wear this skirt when it warmed up in the spring, but fall's fickle nature provided me with the opportunity this week.


The Outfit:
Sweater-- TJ Maxx
Blouse-- thrifted, no tag
Camisole-- JC Penney
Skirt-- thrifted fabric, sewn by me
Shoes: (seen below) Target


Sewing is a new hobby of mine and this skirt was the first project I've seen to completion on my own. The hem is crooked and the side zip is a disaster (perhaps this silky fabric wasn't the best to start with) but I'm pleased as Punch to actually have completed something.



I could not believe my luck when I stumbled on this fabric at a thrift store; the ships, the fish-- it was just the perfect bit of kitsch for my seaside life. And at $3 for several yards, I couldn't resist.



With my skirt, I wore a new thrift shop find that has gotten a lot of wear this season-- a semi-sheer blouse, and my favorite sweater that I lovingly refer to as my "rag." This lightweight knit is perfect for taking away the chill of  overly air-conditioned rooms in all seasons, and makes me feel  little less self-conscious when I wear it over a sleeveless top or dress.
 I have a few of these "rags" in my closet currently and I think, perhaps, something similar might be my next sewing project since they get so much wear.




I'm excited to give this pattern another try and hopefully hone my hemline and zipper sewing skills. I was a bit nervous about how short the skirt turned out, as most of my skirts fall below the knee, but it's not as horribly unflattering on my chubby legs as I had expected-- especially since this skirt will get the most wear during the summer. 


I wore this outfit to do some thrift shopping and pick up a few things for this year's rather elaborate Halloween projects. This year's spooky efforts involve dozens of flat bed sheets, buckets of fabric dye and lots of tassels-- I can't wait to share the results!