Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fly Away

When I went to the antique shop to buy ribbon and lace, I couldn't help looking at the other pretties around me. Inside a drawer full of feather arrangements and little felt flowers, I found two wing-like clusters that I knew would be beautiful with some tweaking. One is made of royal blue and deep plum and red feathers, and the other is made of the palest light blue.

The cuffs didn't take up all the lace that I bought, but there isn't enough for a new set of cuffs or anything fairly extensive. Then I looked at the light blue feathers and decided that white lace was just the ticket.

Behold, a new decoration!


I simply wrapped a bit of lace around the base and tacked it down. The feathers are glued (very weakly) to a bit of felt, so I had something to sew it on. In the picture, I don't have it attached to my dress at all -- but I think it would look lovely with a large pearl-headed pin keeping it in place.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

In Search of Victorian Elegance

Recently I decided that my newly acquired winter coat needed to be revamped. It's lovely, but I thought it could do with a certain additional air of finesse.

After traipsing to my new favourite antique shop and picking up some lace and green silk velvet ribbon, I also found a lovely little fur collar at my local thrift store (6 euros!) and decided to add ties to it while I was in the sewing mood.

While I sewed the cuffs on securely, I did not cement them on, with the intention that I could re-use the ribbon and lace elsewhere as needed or simply replace the cuffs next year.

I'd love to do some sort of melodramatic photoshoot in Pere-Lachaise to fully showcase the new look, but I'm afraid I don't have any acquaintances here who would be willing to follow me around a cemetery. So, for now, a few basic shots will have to do.

Here the cuffs are pinned and ready!


And here I'm sewing the first cuff. You can see that I arranged it so that the cuff doesn't actually meet at the backseam:


A finished cuff! This picture does a good job of showing the sheen of the ribbon:


Here's the whole coat, plus the collar and its new ribbon ties:


And a look at the collar:


I'm really pleased with these embellishments...and even more excited about taking the coat out on the town!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Of Regency Elegance

Nine years ago, the only eras that I liked were the Victorian Era (but mostly the 1850s and 1850s) and the Middle Ages. Anything from 1900-on was too modern and other periods just didn't appeal to me.

Then I discovered Jane Austen, and a whole new world of costume history opened up to me. I grew to love the long white ballgowns, with trains tacked on a sleeve or draped over an arm. The dark-coloured spencers in the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice, Marianne's half-robe in Sense & Sensibility (with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet), even Mr. Tilney's witty banter about the economy of buying muslin in Northanger Abbey.

Back in the day, when I decided I needed a deep-red Regency dress to see the Opera (La Boheme), I began some internet searching to find the best pattern. Simplicity and other Big-Four patterns were ruled out quickly, as I struggled to imagine a real Regency lady having a zipper in the back of her dress. Several sources, however, soon led me to the fantastic Sense & Sensibility Patterns website where I found Mrs. Jennie Chancey's famous Regency Gown pattern. Since I first found her patterns, her line has expanded, with Regency undergarments, new neckline options, and an all-new dress pattern (The Elegant Lady's Closet).

Now I'm quite excited as Mrs. Chancey recently made a new announcement: she is converting her patterns to PDFs, for sale as ePatterns! This is great news especially over here, as I won't need to pay for international shipping. The patterns can just be printed and assembled. I've been thinking about sewing a new gown for an excursion to Bath (maybe something white?) so this news came at just the right time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Fairy Tales

Ah, this photoshoot from Fiona Quinn is so beautiful:

Dark Tales

I love fairy tale re-tellings and re-imaginings, and this shoot is quite lovely.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Advice Tuesday: Wearing Boots

I rather like when blogs have certain features for days of the week (though not necessarily a set pattern that they must follow for every day) so I've decided to start an "Advice Tuesday" where readers can write in with fashion dilemmas, queries, and quests.

Question from an intrepid reader: What do you think of these boots? Can I wear them with skinny jeans? How about a mini skirt? Tights? Black or brown? And how about mixing browns and blacks: is that acceptable or not?

[image from]

Answer: Dear intrepid reader,
I will admit that I was struck with fear when I followed the link to check out the boots. The page did not load for a few seconds and all I could see was the name: "White Mountain Cadonia Suede Boot." Immediately I recalled one of the more unfortunate fashion choices of my high school years, when I purchased a pair of blindingly white, vaguely go-go-esque boots despite the fact that I never wear anything that could possibly coordinate with white boots, and despite the fact that they were so cheap that they began at once to have ugly black scuff marks on the toe.

But I digress. I was relieved to discovered that the name refered to "White Mountain" rather than Mountain Boots that were white. Instead, these boots are a classy upper-calf height boot with a scrunched upper portion (trendy but not overly so), a narrow 3-inch heel, and a gradually pointed toe.

The nubuck leather has a slight velvety look, which is particularly great for fall. These boots are an excellent pair because while they are brown leather and scrunched, they avoid looking like part of a Robin Hood costume because of the elegant heel and pointed toe. Unlike a certain brand of sheepskin-lined, slipper-like boots, these are not clomping-around-the-house shoes. These boots would look fabulous with a just-mid-calf length plaid skirt and an Aran sweater, or a navy pencil skirt and a white blouse. While these boots fit into trends for this fall season, they would be a good investment piece as they will not look out of place in future seasons.

Now on to the additional questions. I find the boots-over-skinny-jeans look to be quite excellent. It's important to have jeans that are narrow enough to fit inside the boots without blousing over (the breeches look should be attempted only with special training). I would go for a subtle dark wash. White jeans tucked into brown boots should never be attempted.

As for a mini skirt, it depends on how you define mini skirt. If "mini skirt" means ending up at upper thigh, forget it (boots and mini skirts generally give the impression "woman of dubious reputation"). If it's mid-to-lower-thigh, you could get away with it if you were wearing tights underneath and if your top provided enough coverage. No tank tops with that combination -- rather, a nice button down or classy tee.

Tights would be great with these boots. As brown and blue are complementary colours (tecnically, it's orange and blue that are complementary, but brown and blue work just as well), try a rich navy or even a brighter blue. As for black or brown, here we enter the next question.

One of fashion's most ponderous adages is the "never mix brown and black" rule. This can be quite limiting, and frankly, irritating. My take on the brown and black mixing is go ahead, but only if the difference in colour is apparent. The key is to avoid looking like you got dressed in the dark and put on your navy tights and black minidress because you couldn't see properly. If the navy tights are clearly blue, and the black minidress is clearly black, then go for it!

For these boots, I would lean toward black tights. Unless you can find tights that are the exact shade of the boots, there is going to be some discrepancy between the colours. Black tights against that brown will provide a nice contrast, and no one will think that you are simply colour-blind for mixing those two colours. Even if you did miraculously find brown tights that are the exact shade of the boots, you'd end up with the "mono-coloured leg" look, which may be slimming, but it's also dull.

Intrepid reader, I hope these ramblings answered your questions!

Troubles? Queries? Wondering what Brits means when they say suspenders? Write in your questions to morrow [dot] caroline [the @ symbol] gmail [dot] com. The address is funkified to foil spambots, of course. I look forward to reading your questions!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ravens and masks

Autumn always makes my slightly Goth tendencies come out in full force. While I've never been one to deck out in full gear, eyeliner and tears included, slight elements do appeal.

Through some trawling, I found this brilliant video from Jill Tracy that elegantly captures the right fall spirit.

Silhouettes, castles, and cemeteries aside (all things I find fascinating), one part of the video that enjoyed most was the montage of half-masks. Besides all my imaginings of hosting a masquerade (a dream that will never die), there is an air of mystery and deception that comes with a simple black half-mask (like Zorro, for example). The lovely Emily Martin, of Some Girls Wander, recently paired a black mask with a red dress and it turned out splendidly. While I've read that in the 17th century, some ladies wore black masks on the street as a fashion accessory, I'm not sure how that would be received in a French town in the 21st century. Then again, the blasé attitudes toward people covered in mud might bode well for their tolerance of any other anomalies in appearance.

Welcome to my clothing blog!

Greetings! I've started this new blog as a place to examine, discuss, dissect, observe, and comment on clothing. I say "clothing" rather than "fashion" because I don't anticipate spending much time commenting on haute couture, but rather my own clothes, other people's everyday clothes, and vintage/used garments.

Many of the blogs I read are focused on fashion (see the sidebar for my favourites) and I love to turn to them for inspiration or ideas. Thus, I decided to create a home for my reflections and reactions to their outfits and other things I discover.

The blog title comes from the name of one of my favourite songs by Neko Case. I'm inspired also by music -- from the lyrics and the feel of the music -- so it seemed fitting to incorporate that into the name of the blog.

I hope you enjoy reading!