what I wore
As summer’s song swans, here’s a little inspiration for looking cute when going out, while still keeping yourself at more of a glisten than a full-on sweat. All of these outfits will work well into fall, especially with a denim jacket tossed over your shoulders.
These three outfits are from my birthday, at the end of July. I turned 41 this year and was lucky enough to celebrate for an entire weekend!
First up, here’s my ubiquitous maxidress. My beautiful sister-in-law Sarah rocks a maxi–she says it’s like wearing a nightgown in public, while feeling dressed up–so I felt inspired to give it a try. I found this grey heathered cottony number at my local Ross.
I love how it feels both dressy and casual, depending on how I accessorize. Here, I wore it to the art museum with my guys. I kept my accessories simple, just earrings and my once-coveted leopard-print sliver wedges from Aerosoles.
When I got chilly in the museum I added a chambray shirt with the sleeves rolled up, tied around the waist. (A great addition for fall weather, too!)
Later that night, I got together with my girlfriends for drinks and to watch a bout of the Big Easy Rollergirls. (They won!) I wanted to feel a little rock-and-roll but still cute for cocktails.
Skinny jeans rolled up a few inches, a slouchy tank with sequins along the bottom, and cool accessories felt right: earrings that brushed my shoulder, sexy but still low-heeled shoes, and this great studded purse.
I did up my makeup, too, with big black eyeliner wings and glittery red lips, and pumped up my hair. I had a great time, especially when we ran down to the floor during halftime to dance!
The next night, my husband and I went out to dinner, so I wanted to look a bit classy.
I wore my Trashy Diva halter dress, Very Volatile patterned wedges (surprisingly comfortable because of the platform and padded insole), and these amazing clip-on earrings a friend made years and years ago. The studded purse made its second appearance. I love that thing.
We hit this crazy vegan Korean barbeque place, Wandering Buddha, that’s literally in the back of a dive bar–to say I was overdressed is a big understatement. But the food was amazing, I felt pretty, and my husband told me I looked great. So, success!
I think the trick to dressing up when it’s hot is in the accessories. Great shoes and a bit of glitz go a long way. Showing some skin–even if it’s just arms, shoulders, or a bit of leg–helps me feel more cool and comfortable. Add a dab of perfume (or glitter!) and I feel transformed.
What do you like to wear for dressing up when it’s hot & sticky (and/or overly airconditioned)?
I have recently rediscovered my kneecaps. It’s like magic: when they show, I think my outfit looks fresher, more modern. When they are covered, I feel more dowdy or frumpy.
I know that’s not the same for everyone, and it’s not even always true for me, but it’s become a new measuring stick for alterations. If a skirt or shorts are not working, I pull it up over my kneecaps to see if that’ll fix it, and often, it does!
Here’s an example. I thrifted this great American Eagle denim skirt that fits well and has a cool worn-in look. But something about it just wasn’t quite right. I didn’t feel cool in it.
So I sliced off about an inch and a half, to the tops of my kneecaps. Suddenly it felt fun and flirty, while still covering enough leg to make me feel age-appropriate and comfortable. Voila!
For this skirt, I did a quick zigzag stitch around the raw edge to keep it from fraying too much while still maintaining the frayed-edge look. I wear this skirt all the time now, a perfect blend of casual and a wee bit fancy.
How do you feel about your kneecaps? Would you show them off? Or is there something else you do to change an item of clothing from frumpy to fab?
Between out-of-town trips, the kids at home all summer, a dead computer/recovering hard drive/new computer, and Hurricane Isaac (we fared fine, though without power for 4 days), I have been somewhat MIA from this blog. My apologies! But I have been getting dressed, sewing, and taking notes, so I hope you’ll follow along with some of my recent projects!
Here is one I am proud of. I found these capris at the thrift store, and loved the embroidered cherry print, but hated the frumpy way they fit me.
Years ago I had some adorable high-waisted shorts with cuffs, probably from the ’40s or ’50s, and decided to recreate that look from these pants.
Basically, this project is not much more complicated than sewing a regular hem, but you need to do some measuring to figure out how you want them to look. I have checkered shorts from Land’s End that I like, so I used them as a model. I wanted to be able to cuff them or leave them uncuffed, so I used the checkered shorts as a model for that too.
First, I measured the inseam, the length from crotch to hem, of my checkered shorts. These are 5 inches cuffed, 7 inches uncuffed. I added two inches to allow for hemming, so I turned my capris inside out and marked them 9 inches from the crotch.
In order to get the legs even, I measured from the bottom of the capris to the mark: 11 inches. Then I measured and marked on the other side of this pant leg, connected the dots, then did the same on the other pant leg. Now there are lines to cut along.
After cutting off the excess fabric, it’s time to hem. First, I ironed about a quarter of an inch up (still inside-out), using a measuring tape to keep the hem even. Ironing meant I didn’t need to pin before stitching.
Here’s how it looks stitched. If you like, you could leave them just like this, without a cuff.
But I like the cuff. In this style of cuffing, you will be able to see the stitching along the bottom; it’s not a blind cuff like on fancy trousers. But that’s OK with casual shorts, I think. My checkered model shorts are the same way, and it allows me to wear them cuffed or not.
I tried them on and determined I wanted the cuff to be 2 inches. I took them off, turned them inside-out, and folded two inches up, pinning as I went.
I stitched a straight line very close to the upper edge of the cuff, then turned them right-side out, turned up my new cuff, and ironed. I think they turned out cute!
Ta-da! I feel like da (cherry) bomb! Bonus: These have elastic along the back waist, so I can actually sit down in them with minimal muffin top. Yay!
Let me know if you try this! It took about an afternoon from beginning to end–with great results. My other capris and pants are now on notice…
Summer time means sundresses, in my humble opinion. Put one on, and you’re done! Plus you look really cute with almost no effort. Who doesn’t love that?
I have a decent selection of vintage sundresses I’ve thrifted over the years. But here’s a consideration I never bothered with before I turned 40: how do you wear vintage without looking, well, vintage? I feel uncomfortable trying to pull off a head-to-toe retro ensemble (though I highly admire women who do). On an a woman my age, I’ve found that retro can look frumpy. Yikes!
My solution is easy: I try to update my dresses with modern or classic accessories, whether shoes or a purse or even my hair. Of course, I don’t want my accessories to clash too much (again, not something I would have minded in my 20s!), so I avoid overly chunky or sporty. I aim for classic-modern.
I think this wonderful cotton turquoise-and-black dress was homemade. I love the way the pattern makes an inverted V down from the waist–it really flattens the tummy (or gives the illusion, anyway)! Above, I wore it with the self-belt, but below I switched it out for a black belt, which I think modernizes it nicely:
For this red bandana-print dress, I added a straw fedora and a crazy white safety-pin belt (and both kids!). I really like belts to give a dress a new shape and look.
Here’s the blue sundress I thrifted in Hawaii (and wore on vacation!). I love to wear these sandals with dresses; I like to think they give my sundresses that classic Audrey in Roman Holiday vibe. At least, in my mind…
And one more dress with the fedora and sandals. I’m holding a great beach bag from my mother-in-law (I think it came with her Estee Lauder purchase) and have a lovely co-model sporting his thrifted ensemble, too.
I also tend to wear big, chunky earrings with my dresses to toughen them up a bit. In the last photo, you can see my heavy silver hoops; I think in other pix I’m wearing earrings that look like metal studs.
I also usually wear my new crossbody purse, which I like because it’s small enough to be dainty but has a classic-modern summery vibe, too.
Do you love sundresses like I do? What do you do to avoid looking costumey? Or do you go full-on retro with pride?
um…skirt, purple mullet skirt!
I should try to dig up some photos of my brothers and their mullets in middle school back in the early ’80s. Gelled spikes on top, long braided rattails in the back as they cruised around on their BMX bikes after breakdancing class…yes the 11-year-old ladies were all over that.
My now-adult-with-kids-of-their-own-and-conservatively-cropped brothers would kill me.
So here’s a more palatable mullet. I saw the ladies on Ain’t No Mom Jeans and I’ll Take That in Purple celebrating the short-in-front, long-in-back skirts that are now popular, and I thought, hm, my legs are still pretty good. Could I get away with one of those? Better yet, could I make one?
Hope all of you Mamas out there had a delightful day! Mine was just what I asked for: pancakes, then quiet time to myself, then more pancakes! I seem to take the Mother’s Day Brunch idea to extremes…
I used to feel guilty asking to be Not-Mom for Mother’s Day–at least for a little while–but I find that it’s usually just what I need. And luckily, my DH agrees. He took the boys to the Aquarium, and they were thrilled. And I had the whole house to myself for hours! HOURS!
Mostly I played in my closet, trying things on and deciding what needed alteration and what was ready for donation. I’ve got a stack of sewing projects now (just what I needed, ha) and actually finished one project, the results of which I hope to post sometime soon.
One funny thing I noticed was that some of my sundresses (unworn since before I became pregnant with my now-2-year-old) now seem too girlish–cute and funky, but somehow not…sophisticated? enough for my tastes these days. Yet I don’t feel too sad about moving on from them. Especially if I can sell them and buy something new! (I should say “new” since they’ll be coming from the resale shop!)
So here’s the outfit I finally settled on for my forays into the world today. I love this wrap skirt, which I thrifted years ago in Wisconsin. The straight A-line style is flattering to my body shape (apple-ish), and the colors and batik pattern make me think of a costume I helped design & create for a fire fairy in a college production of The Tempest.