Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Anyone who knows me (even peripherally) knows I am never far from a book. I do not have an e-reader, because I enjoy the tactile sensation of reading a real, honest-to-goodness hard-bound (or paperback) book. I love libraries and used bookstores, and I've even enjoyed big chain bookstores as a cheap date for myself; A place to replenish my collection after giving away books and then deciding I can't live without them glistening on my shelves. This blog post is about some of the fashion lessons I've learned from some of my favorite books and authors.
“Sir," she said, "you are no gentleman!" "An apt observation" he answered airily. "And you, Miss, are no lady.” -Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind
Gone With The Wind: A nostalgic favorite of mine...I read the novel at age 13 when my good friend Julia loaned me her dog-eared copy. Julia gossiped with me about the characters and watched the movie with me once I was well obsessed with the Civil War era fashions and etiquette. Julia and I gushed over the story and characters and clothes...It spawned an obsession with period costume for me that has only evolved and expanded in the intervening years...I marveled at Scarlett O'Hara's 'stays' and hoop skirts, her corset lacing and her layers and layers of crinoline...Margaret Mitchell's descriptions of the clothing accessories and fabrics developed into alternate characters for me. I recall adopting a manner of walking down the halls of my middle school, posture-perfect, pretending I was corseted and wearing 3 feet of crinoline and hoop skirt around my gawky teenage legs. The visual splendor of the costumes in the film version of the novel made me "pea-green with envy" to quote the heroine. Walter Plunkett's designs and attention to historical accuracy still boggle my mind...The green sprigged muslin dress, the red velvet "Nothing modest or matronly" gown Scarlett wore to Ashley's birthday party, the corsets, stays, pantalets, and crinolines (Especially Rhett's gift of a red taffeta crinoline for Mammy)...all fascinated me more than the story itself. In the time since Margaret Mitchell's words leapt from the page and introduced me to the world of Civil War era fashion, I've been lucky enough to design and make historically accurate corsets and costumes. I've made and worn some for myself, too...the fantasy of my 13-year old self walking 'like a grown up lady' transformed into the adult-me facing the reality of two-dozen steel bones, busks, lacing cord and the welts that accompany poorly made or improperly laced corsets. I've also been able to wear (maneuver is more accurate) a hoop skirt with layers of crinoline. Sitting in all of these elements was a lesson in posture, poise and balance. One cannot simply plunk oneself down whilst corseted, skirted, and layered in crinoline. Getting up daintily is another matter entirely!
There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. -Edith Wharton
The Age of Innocence: Another novel that changed my life. The exquisitely dressed Newland Archer, his deep inner 'wrongness' and outer 'rightness', elegance and eloquence ruined me for all other men (for a while...). The Gilded Age setting of old New York that Edith Wharton depicts is breathtaking and ridiculous at the same time. The contrast of characters: Newland Archer's respected upper-class gentleman lawyer, May Welland's naïve simpering ingénue, and the unconventional forbidden object of Newland's infatuation, Ellen Olenska is stunningly written. The author depicts the fashion and etiquette of the time period in extraordinary detail. The detailed chapters referencing fashion and décor compelled me to learn more about construction and fabrics than any other influence thus far. Decorating oneself, one's living space, and projecting an outward image were the ultimate expressions of class and respectability (even in the midst of scandal, rumor and innuendo). As with Gone With The Wind, the film version (Scorsese, 1993) thrilled me and stopped me in my tracks. Daniel Day-Lewis (of course) is the physical embodiment of Newland Archer. He's simply amazing. Wynonna Ryder is May Welland, and captures the doe-eyed façade of her character impressively. Michelle Pfeiffer is Madame Ellen Olenska, and I find her to be slightly off physically from the novel, however, she is impeccable and definitely fills the role well. Gabriella Pescucci won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design (and rightly so). These costumes are absolute works of art. If I could be a fly on the wall for any film costume design workroom, it would be for this film. A lesson I learned from the novel about fashion is that what we project outwardly (perfection in Newland's case, Naïveté in May's, and free-spirited laissez-faire in Madame Olenska's case) is most often the polar opposite of what lives in our hearts and brains. It is a powerful exercise to take some stock internally and compare how you REALLY feel inside to how you present yourself to the world. It opened my world up, quite literally.
I feel like an outsider, and I always will feel like one. I've always felt that I wasn't a member of any particular group. -Anne Rice
Interview With The Vampire: (disclaimer: I will NOT be talking about the movie on this one) This novel, I read when I was 16. I had hardly any experience with vampire lore, it was 15 years before Twilight or any of that nonsense, and I was considered "odd" among my friends for reading it. I persevered and read it and all of the subsequent Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I read her Mayfair Witches stories and her 'Sleeping Beauty' erotica novels as well. I love how Anne Rice writes. Her ability to describe what her characters see, feel and do is absolutely riveting. In Interview With The Vampire, Anne Rice draws us in with Louis, melancholy brooding dark and beautiful. Louis downplays his beauty. He is a shadow next to Lestat, but also a conflicted moralist with monochromatic tendencies...Then there is Lestat. A tall bombastic, brat-prince with golden haired bad-boy allure. Lestat is a ruffled throated dandy who will tear your jugular out while seducing you slowly. His fashion tastes are flourishes and velvet, jewel tones and anything that accentuates his best assets. He's partial to the dramatic and is the epitome of rock star chic (long flowing golden hair, tight velvet pants, fitted jackets and androgynous touches) even before electricity is invented. The fashion I picked up on in this novel started me on a trek to becoming a full fledged card carrying Goth Chick by the time I was 19. pale skin made paler by darkening my strawberry blonde hair to deep red and donning dark merlot colored lipstick. I started making Goth style clothes, first a floor length crushed velvet black dress, which I wore with a silver brocade corset and combat boots. Chain accessories and long flared coats with cinched waists, evoking 1930s vampire films were a staple for me. One of the biggest fashion inspirations that I gleaned from Anne Rice's novels was to always be beautiful, to dress how I feel and to create the image of who I wanted to be. I added fishnet stockings, chainmail, safety pins and punk styling to complete my Goth/Punk/pinup look. Torn clothes, artfully mended with metallic stitches or pins and Victorian inspired trimmings carried my Goth fashion aesthetic until my mid twenties. I still dabble in the look, and prize my porcelain skin, twenty years later. These three books are but a few of hundreds that I have read and that have influenced my personal style. I rely heavily on history and art to inspire me to create. The inspiration does not stop at the above listed genres, or even at books. I felt like sharing my inspirations in hopes that you will think about your personal style, what influences you to wear what you wear, and what makes you feel beautiful. Maybe it is not a book you read, maybe it is another experience or art form that you can tap into to develop and embrace your sense of self.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Well, Lookee Here...!

When it comes to self-image, if you're a woman, chances are that you've spent moments at the mirror that have run the gamut from positive to negative and everything in between. We've all caught a glimpse of something we really liked about ourselves in a mirror, as well as perhaps something we didn't like so much. This post is about the latter...Why is it, that when we see something that we like about ourselves in the mirror, it seldom carries as much weight as something we DON'T like about ourselves? Why do we fixate on the dimple over there, the blemish up here and the strands of hair that won't cooperate instead of the amazing texture of our lips, the perfectly formed landscape of our cheekbones, and the incredible depth of our own eyes? Why, when someone else points out one of our beautiful features, do we shyly look away and mutter some surprised response to their 'kindness' or a self-deprecating retort, or disbelief that someone finds ANYTHING about us attractive? We had to have learned this avoidance and these self-scrutinizing tactics somewhere...It seems too easy to blame the media. After all, TVs can be shut off, radios can be tuned out, print media can be closed and internet can be disconnected. There is something deeper in our core, as women, that affords us a 'free pass' to dissect ourselves, loathe our faces, bodies, brains, abilities, in a way that we would never dream of speaking to or treating one of our friends. I never saw my father sit in front of a mirror and pick apart his face, or worry about the firmness of his butt in his jeans. I never saw my grandfather run from an unexpected visitor to 'put his face on', or any of my uncles ever say they didn't want to go out because they were feeling bloated. However, every single female relative that I grew up watching at some point or another made mention of her imperfections with amazing ease and confidence that, in her chosen area of complaint, she sucked. All of my friends had moms and sisters that did the same. Every sleepover I went to, girls talked badly about themselves, some of their mothers added to the mix by 'helping us' do facials, to rid us of our "unsightly skin issues", and giving us advice about bikini waxing "nobody wants to see a stray hair, it's just ugly, girls!!", and proper eyebrow plucking techniques "You're going to need a monthly visit to the waxing salon, honey". I often would curl up into my Garfield sleeping bag and wonder what was wrong with my eyebrows, and how would I ever endure the embarrassment of a bikini wax, or worse, what if I had an ugly stray hair somewhere!! Every negative thing I ever heard about my own body or my looks or my brains or my abilities came from women whom I looked up to or respected. I later began this inner monologue and outer self-deprecation with gusto...They (for the most part) had no malicious intent, but somehow their words stung and affected me in a way that I cannot fully articulate today. I have thought long and hard about the image I project to my nieces, and I hope that I have never said anything to them to make them feel bad about any part of themselves...but deep inside, I know I have, because I've allowed myself the free pass to dissect myself and I've engaged in negative self-talk about myself in front of them!! I'm horrified by this. If I am allowing myself to say bad things about me in front of them, that in turn, passes the baton to them to feel bad about themselves in an intangible way. I'm not saying that the men in our lives are completely innocent of this kind of talk and behavior...what I am saying is that we 'allow' this talk from men, because we are programmed to join in the bashing from an early age. I'm starting a habit of not saying bad things about myself. I hope you think about what you say about yourselves too, and spend some time getting acquainted with yourself (every single last cell of you) in your own mirror..take self-portraits with your phone, post positive comments to yourself on Facebook and Tweet good stuff about your fabulous self to the whole world....after all no one else's opinion of you matters...we must stop the negative self-talk, and we must not raise more generations of girls who become women that do not understand their own awesomeness... If you need me, I'll be gazing lovingly into my own blue-green eyes... xoxo Me

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Saucy Underthings

Whether you're in a relationship, single, married, or 'it's complicated', lingerie is a Valentine's Day staple, so why not enjoy it? I'm an afficionado of saucy underthings. I love corsets, slips, bras, bustiers, panties, knickers, garters, boy shorts, stockings, girdles, waist cinchers, silky robes, nighties, and pegnoirs. I have made a living making corsets and sassy nighties for all manner of people; Drag Queens/Transvestites, Brides, ladies who lunch, and everyone in between. What I find about lingerie in the open market is that it can be intimidating! the advertisements depict people who aren't you basking in the glory of their sassy undies...the choices are sometime slim, if you don't know where to look: heart themes, red, red and more red, cheaply made weird smelling fabrics...when it comes to the most romantic or sexy garments you can put on your body, I have some advice on how to come through it relatively unscathed and enjoying the heck out of the experience! Let's start with your body! It is fabulous, by the way! I love your bod, and you should too! Whatever size or shape your body is should not matter when considering lingerie. Don't ever let your bod hear or see you getting intimidated by a potential lingerie will be the end of your relationship with your super fine self! What you MUST do is accept that other people's opinion of your body has NOTHING to do with you! If they like it (or love it, like I do) then great, good for them! If they do not like it, and let you know that they don't like it, remember it is a reflection of them, and NOT YOU!! Quit the negative self talk when you're standing in that mirror...The mirror only reflects what you want to see anyway, so have a good long look at your amazing awesomeness, drink it in, and own your body as a prized posession. Rant over. Ok, so now that we're loving on ourselves, and making nicey-nice with our figures, let's get some basic lingerie cringe moments out of the way: When purchasing lingerie remember, buy what makes you look and feel fantastic. Don't fall for the 'conventional' sexy're you; your lingerie style should reflect your personality and not look like you're trying too hard. Pick fabrics and colors that compliment your skin tone, try to get lingerie from reputable places...Some of my favorites: The next (Most important) tip is to try your lingerie on in front of a mirror...bathe, do your hair how you like it best, put on some perfume, and seduce yourself! Check out how you look standing up, sitting down, lying down, and posing. I recommend researching pinup art and trying out some of those poses because, not only is it fun to play pinup, those girls posed in some of the most flattering and self-empowering positions. It is not about being perfect, it is about being perfectly comfortable with yourself! Remember, this is as much about you feeling good as it is about putting a smile on your partner's face. This tip is important because all of us don't regularly wear garters, corsets, etc, and putting them on can be tricky the first few times. Also practice removing your lingerie if you want to add a little burlesque to your routine. The last advice I will give is to be sure that you launder your lingerie carefully, if you'd like it to show up for an encore performance intact. Also don't be afraid of accessorizing with hats, feathers, flowers, necklaces, etc. Message me if you have any specific lingerie questions! xoxox

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I have been unemployed for a while now, surfing the net and networking furiously to find myself a job. I have been plagued with doubt about my "hire-ability" and my self-esteem has been somewhere between the belly of a slug and the ground it oozes around on. So, after months of hard work trying to impress people with my resume submittals or "me on paper" I am faced with finally getting some face-time with a prospective employer. What should I wear to a big interview for the best possible first impression?

First of all, I have hired (and fired) many people in my day. That equates to me having sat through exponentially more interviews than I care to remember. I do not recall any single person that I have hired wearing anything of note. I am now looking deep into my fashionable soul and trying to decide what I should wear when I sit on the other side of that desk tomorrow. Experts say the following:
Women should wear a conventional suit or coordinating jacket and knee-length skirt. Dark colours suggest authority but bright can work with care.
Wear tights.
Don't wear lots of frills, trousers unless smart, low cut tops, or lots of make-up, perfume or jewellery.
Make sure your hair is neat and tidy.
Very high heels are not wise - it's important to feel comfortable in what you are wearing.
( I know they are experts, because they are obviously British)

I think I will do a classic silhouette of a black jacket, blue blouse, black pencil skirt and dark tights with mid-height heels. And you know what? I think I will raise my self esteem a bit and add a fun piece of non-intimidating jewelry!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

that darn mending

When I was rooting through my closet the other day to find a jacket I had packed away last spring, I came upon a bag of "needs mending" clothes. Admittedly, I am a person who used to either donate clothes in need of mending to charity or simply toss them (especially in the case of socks). Even though I sew and was taught at an early age not to waste anything, I still had a habit of buying new socks or a new shirt if mending needed to take place. In the past, I have mended for friends and family members, but never even considered doing the same for myself. I think that I psychologically fell into a gray-area with my own clothing where I considered it "work" to mend something of my own, but I considered it "helpful" to mend for other people. I'm a little angry at myself for adopting this attitude. Although some might say a needy person would have benefitted from my donating the bag of clothes, I argue that they would have had to repair the garments themselves or wear worn/torn clothes!

I sorted through the bag and found three pairs of warm socks with holes in the heels, a blouse with a tiny worn spot on the side seam, a sweater with a hole on the hem, and a skirt with a fallen hem. I decided to save money and mend these myself. After all, my sewing room is stocked with mending tools; needles, threads, zipper replacement parts and all manner of darning tools. I also found that my newest sewing machine also has a "mending" stitch (it's one of the stretch stitches that works perfectly to mend knits)! Within minutes I was stitching and fixing my own sweater and socks. It really was easy with the right tools.

I repaired the socks and sweater with the mending stitch on the sewing machine. I repaired the blouse with a straight stitch on the worn seam. I hand sewed the fallen hem of my skirt (a blind hem) and I believe I saved myself about $50 in the process. Everything looks as good as new. It didn't seem like work at all while I was mending and darning. I was helpful to myself and it felt really good!

You can teach yourself to mend or ask me about sewing lessons :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Body Conscious?

I watch a lot of fashion-theme TV shows where experts tell women about what to wear, what not, and why. I like that good information is being passed, but I wonder how much of it is really being heeded. When I look around my local area, what I see most is a dedication to 'comfort' and a 'throw it on/out the door' attitude. And I see a lot of Muffin Tops!! I have fallen into these traps myself and I realize that comfort for busy people is a key element to how they choose to dress. I say choose to dress because it is definitely a choice. While I was struggling to lose weight, a meeting leader at Weight Watchers once told our group to not wear any elastic waist pants when trying to reduce your waistline. Aside from that being good all-around weight loss advice (elastic waist pants are almost a free-pass to overeat) it was also sound fashion advice for everyone. Every day you get an opportunity to clothe your body in whatever you have available. Why not skip the elastic waists and reach for something that has structure and fits you well? I recently browsed the racks at a local Macy's and found several lightweight cotton trouser front pairs of shorts (appropriate length for my height and age) on sale for $19. I invested $40 and bought two pair. They were on a rack next to some lightweight cotton knit elastic waist capri pants. I tried on a pair of those too, and I will honestly tell you that not only did I look better in the structured lightweight cotton shorts, but I felt better too. My posture was better, I wasn't tugging at my shirt to cover the 'comfort' line (muffin top) of the elastic waist. I was also pleased to see that the more structured shorts gave me a slimmer look (no muffin top). I think that as we choose what we cover our assets with, we should remember that comfort is not always about 'throwing something on'. It is more about a way of feeling good about oneself and easing your way through the day without compromising that confidence.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fast Fashion Fixes

Recently a friend called me desperate to get help with a stubborn zipper. She was on her way out to a function, and the zipper on her skirt would not glide past a certain point due to a misshapen tooth. I quickly told her what she could do in a pinch to fix the issue. The solution worked and she thanked me gratefully. It got me thinking that I would like to share some of the best quick fashion fixes I have learned and used while constructing and tailoring garments over the past 10 years. Most of these were acquired by working in the sewing room of several bridal shops, so I don't claim that I have come up with them on my own!

For zipper issues:
-if your zipper won't zip past a certain point (and the garment fits you properly) try running a dry bar of soap over the trouble spot all the way to the stopper (This pushes the teeth back into place while cleanly 'waxing' the coils/teeth for smooth operation)
- if you lost your zipper pull a safety pin, small twist tie or paper clip can get you through the day until you can have the pull replaced
-if your zipper splits you can remove your garment, lay it on a flat surface and press the zipper back together with a pencil eraser. Then run a dry bar of soap over the coils/teeth for smooth operation
-if your zipper is metal and gets stuck, instead of dry bar of soap, use a small directly applied spray of non-stick cooking spray on the teeth (be sure to spray a small amount, keep a towel handy and only spray the teeth!)

For button issues
-If you notice that you have a loose button, before you head out to work glop a tiny drop of clear nail-polish onto the top of the button (over the holes) which will keep the thread attached to the button until you have time to get it re-attached properly (hot glue also works for this). Let it dry thoroughly before you touch it again
-if your blouse gapes at the bust-point use two medium sized safety pins next to (one above and one below) the struggling button to hold the blouse closed until you can get your buttons moved or get a better fitting bra!
-If the button on your pants falls off during the day grab a twist tie (the paper-coated metal type from lunch bags) and peel the paper off. Thread the twist tie through the buttonholes, then through your garment. secure by twisting and knotting the tie ends on the inside waste band of your pants.

For makeup, deodorant or toothpaste stains
-on white natural fabrics (cotton, silk, etc) you can use ivory soap (a dry bar of it) or any pure white soap with no oils added to remove just about any satin (including blood!). Dry rub the stain with the soap and wipe in tiny circles with a slightly dampened white cloth to remove stain.
-if you spill powder makeup on your suit or dress, try patting the spots with a damp towel (not a paper towel) or rubbing the spot with a similar fabric (the inside of your suit, perhaps?) until the powder is removed
-for deodorant never try to remove it with water. Use a dry towel or cloth, rubbing in small circles until deodorant is removed
-toothpaste sometimes stubbornly re-appears even after you've washed it away with a damp cloth. A bristly brush will remove dried toothpaste from most fabrics

Another tip is to keep a baggie with a dryer sheet in it, and some baby wipes handy, since they work well on lint removal and makeup stains respectively.