Fringe! Part 2

I can’t get enough of the fringed denim hem. The trend seems to have lasted a couple of seasons, and I’m hoping it’ll last a few more, because not only is it fun to wear, it’s also fun to DIY.

I’ve been trying to clean out my closet, and in the process I rediscovered a pair of wide-leg jeans that had been sitting in the corner, forgotten, for several years. I stopped wearing them because (1) the length was unflattering—the jeans’ hem fell slightly below my ankles and looked goofy on my short frame—and (2) skinny jeans were “in.”

But fashion is fickle and cyclical. Currently, the runways have been full of culottes and flared hems, so I decided it was time to revitalize my elderly wide-legs. I got out my scissors, chopped off the old hem so that the jeans were now above-ankle length, and then got out my seam ripper and put on a mindless TV show. A couple of hours later, I had made myself a second pair of fringed jeans (click here to see my first pair!). Not only that, I had also made myself a pair of culottes! Two style boxes checked in one. 😀

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During a trip back home to New York, I took my new fringe-y culottes out on the town.

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Sometimes I like to pretend I live in fancy apartment buildings in Manhattan.

Outfit details: Round black sunglasses (thrifted); vintage swirly silver clip-on earrings (thrifted); black slip dress (very old fast-fashion purchase); black crossbody hangbag (old gift); fringed denim culottes (DIYed from old jeans); black jelly sandals (older fast-fashion purchase)

They were comfy and fun to swish around in. With this super easy DIY, I had added a new, stylish piece to my wardrobe for free. Hurrah!

If you decide to revitalize your jeans in the same way, let me know! (I used this tutorial from Honestly WTF as a starting-off point, but for the fringed culottes I only created about 0.5 to 0.75 inches worth of fringe.)

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

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Time-Traveling

Hello, hello. Welcome to my denim uniform:

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I’m visiting from the seventies. I was all ready to go out for a night on the town when some force pulled me into this weird future. I met the 2017 version of myself, who told me that I’m not actually going to go out and have fun tonight because we have a gigantic freelance project to do. She was very mean and gave me a lecture about the importance of hard work. Then she shoved a giant stack of papers in my hands, said “good luck,” and ran out the door.

I’m glad I was wearing sunglasses, so I could maintain my cool-girl look while tears rolled down my cheeks at the thought of doing work on a Saturday night.

In all seriousness, I actually do have a lot of work to do. It’s all my fault, really. I wanted to have some extra pocket money (especially since I have a major and expensive dental procedure coming up) so I took on a gig editing a two-hundred-page manuscript. Of course, as soon as I started working on it, I realized how much I hate not having free time. Especially since I’m the type of person who overexhausts herself on everything. Walk up to me on any given day and ask me what I’ve been up to, and I’ll tell you how I’ve been working on five different personal projects in the past three hours. (This may sound like a “humble brag,” but I am actually telling you about a huge flaw of mine, because I never actually finish any of my personal projects on account of my having so many things in my queue.)

I decided I would go work in a coffee shop today, and to cheer myself up I put together a fun outfit. Lo and behold, working in a coffee shop by yourself can be frustrating, because every time you need to go pee you need to pack up and bring all of your stuff with you (I don’t want to risk losing my laptop…). So I decided to try working at home. Now I’m sitting in the kitchen distracting myself by writing a blog post. Sigh.

This is the brooch I wore on my denim jacket today:

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Right now I feel like that person hanging from the rope.

Psst, I got the brooch at a thrift store in Hyde Park. For $3. I love thrift stores. They’re a great place to source unique fashion, and you’re helping keep these items out of the landfill (although not all thrift stores are alike in terms of how they handle unwanted donations, so do your research!).

I actually stopped in a thrift store on my way from the coffee shop (yet another example of how I have procrastinated today) and managed to snap some grainy full-length photos of my outfit:

My usual photographer (M.) is out of town this weekend, hence all of the selfies.

Outfit details: Denim jacket (thrifted); maroon wrap top (US-made); black bralet; air balloon brooch (thrifted); fringe-hem jeans (DIY); western-style brown belt; coral-striped socks; bright red kitten heels (thrifted, possibly vintage, perhaps from the 80s?)

My favorite part of this outfit is my shoes and socks combo:

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Look at that wonderful Waldo witchiness. Plus that fringe!! (You might recognize that fringe from this post. 😀 )

All right, I think it’s time for me to go. I hope you all enjoy your Saturday nights! Wish me luck with mine. . .

❤ S. (a.k.a. aMisplacedPen)

An Oasis

Recently, my younger brother and his girlfriend came to Chicago for a short trip. I was tasked with planning an entire day of sightseeing. I had a lot of thoughts about where we would dine and drink, but when it came to activities between said eating and drinking, I was stumped. Then I remembered the Garfield Park Conservatory. I had never been there, so this was a chance for myself to explore as well.

And what a wonderfully green place the conservatory is!

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Located in East Garfield Park, the conservatory is essentially a gigantic greenhouse. A gigantic greenhouse with impeccably landscaped rooms and so many different plants! Though it isn’t as large and grand as New York’s various botanical gardens, its price can’t be beat because a visit to the conservatory is free! My brother, his girlfriend, M., and I had fun exploring the various landscapes and marveling at the gigantic palm tree in the first room.

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A tip: Dress lightly, or wear layers that can be easily removed. Many of the rooms are temperature-controlled to keep the plants happy, and those temperatures tend toward the warmer end of the thermostat.

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For example, the cactus room was very, very dry and very hot.

I was baring a little midriff that day, a style choice that turned out to be surprisingly practical.

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Time to get serious. Plants are serious business.

While I was impressively sweaty by the end of our exploration through the maze of rooms, my abdomen had a little window for the breeze to sweep by and wick away some of my perspiration. 😉

The shirt I’m wearing is the result of a DIY project—I took an old black button-up that was both too long and too outdated looking (there was strange pleating and ruching going on), and chopped off the bottom half. I then bound the new hem with black bias tape to keep it from unraveling. Easy-peasy!

I also painted eyes on the tips of the shirt collar, using silver fabric paint. Because I like people to know I’m watching them. With my collar eyes.

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This is the best image I have of the collar eyes. (It was selfie time for M. and I, don’t judge. :P)

Outfit details: Gold vintage clip-on earrings, black cropped shirt (DIY), acid wash high-waisted shorts (made in the U.S.A.), gold leather satchel (thrifted from Beacon’s Closet), speckled knee-patch tights, knee-high black boots (gifted).

After dealing with the persistent stressors of my work life and of current events, I was glad to briefly escape to this beautiful attraction. Being surrounded by so much flora is extremely soothing, and reminds me that I need to do some more outdoor exploration!

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Fringe!

It’s a short post today! I wanted to show off my “new” fringed jeans. I spent over a week on these babies, patiently fraying them with a seam ripper while I watched TV shows or listened to podcasts. Then I cut a rectangle out of the left knee area, because why not? The more loose threads, the merrier.

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Outfit details: Round sunglasses with gold-tone bridge, vintage gold-tone clip-on earrings (from Monarch thrift shop); violet-pink lipstick; sheer turtleneck top (made in the USA); striped crop top; rings (DIY and from Tough & Pretty); fringed jeans (DIYed using old denim); olive suede booties (from Encore Resale thrift store)

This is probably the best photo I have of how fringey the fringe is (please ignore the mess that is my room):

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Friiiiiinge!

These jeans used to be a pair of bootcut jeans from a store that I will not name, as I had bought them many years before I decided to become an ethical consumer. I’ve owned this pair for at least five years now, and I’ve probably worn it less than twenty times. I didn’t like the way the jeans looked on me because they were a little too long and bootcut. To be honest, I had bought them because they were on super sale. But they’re also made of high-quality denim and it seemed like a shame to give them up.

Then I came across Honestly WTF’s DIY tutorial for fraying jeans. She beautifully documents every step of the process. I followed her tutorial fairly faithfully, although, when I was finished, I did use my sewing machine to run a small zig-zag stitch over the unfrayed portion of the hem to ensure that it wouldn’t keep fraying after I put the jeans in the wash.

I stopped the fringe right around my ankles; that way, if I get tired of the fringe, I can lop it off and turn the jeans into an ankle-length pair! I want to make sure that this item of clothing can have a long life in my closet, because reusing what you have is the most sustainable way to consume fashion.

I’m itching to try these jeans out with a pair of heels! The styling possibilities are pretty exciting, and I’ll get to feel fringey goodness swishing around my feet. That’ll have to wait until warmer weather though!

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

 

Blue Velvet

Last month, I officially left my early twenties. I have a lot of mixed feelings about how my mid- to late twenties are looking given all of the events of last year. A part of me wants to ignore the outside world and curl up into a ball. But I’m determined not to give into that impulse, especially since I’ve resolved to be community focused in the upcoming year. Once in a while though, everyone needs a day off. And what better reason to take a day off than your own birthday?

I ended up having three different celebrations, one with my family, one with my friends in NYC, and one with M. in Chicago. For my night out with M., I really wanted to make a new birthday outfit. Then, four days before our special date night, I realized my attempts to make a velvet dress were not going well… The bodice that I had sewn together was fitting poorly, I was exhausted from work and wasn’t sure I’d have enough time to fix the fit, and I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the pattern as I thought I’d be. The fabric was so beautiful though, I didn’t want to just give up…

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The fabric in question. Look at it call out to you!

Fortunately, I still had enough velvet material left for a skirt, and while I was back home in NYC I had made a trip to M&J Trimming and bought some beautiful Belgian elastic with a fleur-de-lis pattern on it, thinking it would make a lovely waistband. A quick and easy gathered skirt was my best bet. The velvet is striking enough by itself, so I knew even with the simple shape the skirt would still have high visual impact. I cut out two rectangles from my remaining velvet, added pockets in the side seams, and then, in place of a serger, used the zigzag stitch on my geriatric sewing machine to attach the Belgian elastic to the gathered rectangles of velvet. Add a few choice accessories, and viola! I felt rather “high fashion”:

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My photographer was not very pleased to be standing for ten minutes in a cold stairwell to take these photos for me…My expression here probably reflects how he felt during the photoshoot.
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Is it just me or is this photo blurry? Perhaps this will be my excuse for getting a new camera…And a tripod to replace my reluctant photographer. 😉

This outfit ended up being an extravaganza of ethical and eco fashion, which made me doubly excited to wear it out. My shoes, bag, and sunglasses are all from various consignment shops. The sheer turtleneck top I’m wearing was made in the U.S.A. My rhinestone clip-on earrings are from Vintage Underground. The rhinestone bracelet on my left wrist is from a thrift store that uses its profits to provide services for disenfranchised men. The watch I’m wearing is almost entirely biodegradable because it’s made (mostly) from wood!

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Some of the aforementioned accessories.

Last, but not least, the silver lipstick I am wearing is Perfect Foil, from Portland Black Lipstick Company. The lipstick is made in the United States from natural materials, and the parent company is a small business founded and run by a woman (a very nice woman, who sent me a personal email to confirm my online order!). I’ve tried two of Portland Black Lipstick’s colors so far, and Perfect Foil is a little bit drier than the other one, but that’s to be expected of such an intense metallic pigment. And even with the intense pigmentation, my lips didn’t feel too thirsty over the night.

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Look how shiny! (If you’re wondering why the texture looks rough, I used a lip brush to apply the color so there’s some weird nooks and crannies in the lipstick surface now…)

To match my outfit’s ethically conscientious attitude, M. and I started my birthday night at Lula Café for dinner. Lula Café has existed for almost two decades and makes a point of using as many local ingredients as possible. For my entrée, I had duck breast with truffle au jus and red rice risotto. It was sublime!

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Then we made our way to The Drifter for drinks and a show. The Drifter is a cozy bar set in a historic space and run by a woman named Liz Pearce. Fun tidbit: it’s actually not as common as you’d think for bars and restaurants to be owned or run by women (like many other lucrative industries, the food and beverage industries are very male-dominated…).

The Drifter appealed to me with their amazing cocktails and cabaret acts throughout the night, including a couple of burlesque performances. Burlesque fascinates me; I waver back and forth between looking at it as male-targeted titillation and thinking of it as empowering performance. It’s easy for me to forget that both of these views are gross simplifications; as with almost everything, there is nuance to be had. While M. and I were at The Drifter, we caught two burlesque acts, both of which were hilarious (one involved the performer’s buttocks moving to the rhythm of Mozart!). While I was sure that some of the people in the crowd were only at the bar to gawk at bared female bodies, the combination of humor and self-assurance that I saw in the women who were performing was definitely empowering to me. I came away with a lot of admiration and a desire to learn burlesque myself!

All in all, I had a really lovely evening. It was a good time to refresh in preparation for the years ahead. Tomorrow is going to be a long day, and I’ll need all the strength I can muster to keep fighting the good fight.

Wishing all of you equality, love, and peace.

❤ S. (aka AMisplacedPen)

Lavender in the Fall, and a Quick Update

I’ve been rather politically oriented in my last couple of posts, but I’m returning to form here, for the moment. Amid all of this chaos, fashion is still a great solace to me, and I’m committed to maintaining my ethical fashion goals.

For the past few months I’ve been itching to get my hands on a fitted mock neck sweater, and during my latest trip to the thrift store, I found this lavender gem. While this piece isn’t exactly what I’ve been looking for, for $1.00 it was certainly close enough!

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I wore the above outfit to get a cocktail with friends during a spell of strangely warm weather in Chicago (I’m sure there are many more spots of unusually warm weather to come…). I paired the lavender top with a pair of skinny jeans and a high ponytail, but when I was staring at the whole combination it looked a little too “preppy” for me. So I added some edginess by creating deep cuffs with the legs of my jeans and throwing some fishnet socks and my studded navy loafers into the mix.

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The clip-on earrings I’m wearing in this photo were made by me! I whipped these babies up in about fifteen minutes using silver tassels I had on hand and a mix of wooden beads and jade glass beads. Unfortunately, during all of the chaos of the past couple of months, I’ve lost track of their whereabouts… I’ll have to do some wading through the mess that is my bedroom.

By the way, I have a new job! I’ve moved into the editing department within the company I’ve been working for! I’m technically starting out at entry level again, but I already feel much happier and more fulfilled doing something that I love.

And, I have a new freelance assignment! I took an editing class a couple of years ago when I began seriously contemplating editing as a career, and I now work in the same department as my former editing teacher! Unfortunately, he is retiring, and he decided to recommend me to one of his former clients. So now I’m editing a research paper and learning a lot about statistical terms. That’s been occupying a lot of my brain space whenever the election isn’t.

Last, but not least, I’ve made a couple of other environmentally and ethically conscientious purchases that I can’t wait to share with you, and I have a new page for my site that is in the works. Stay tuned!

With all of my love,
S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

My Wardrobe Workhorse (a.k.a. One Skirt, So Many Outfits)

During my teenage and young adult years, I had assumed that if I wanted to have an interesting wardrobe or be considered a stylish person I would need to own hundreds and hundreds of clothing itemsit’s easy to feel that way when mainstream fashion media and red carpet stars seem to have completely new wardrobes every season and fast fashion stores like H&M encourage quantity over quality. I’ve let go of my “more is better” belief, but as I was curating my blog photos for this post it still felt taboo for me to show myself wearing something more than once within the same month.

But, if I am trying to cultivate a sustainable wardrobe and showcase my efforts in doing so, I will have to start choosing quality over quantity. One major signifier of quality is rewearability. Plus, I always get excited when I see a garment repeated in a blogger’s outfit posts because I like to see how someone wears the same piece over time; hopefully some of you out there feel the same way.

So, let’s start with my self-made red skirt. Yep, my last post featured it. And this post will feature it again! 🙂 Because I wasn’t kidding when I said that I love this skirt. It is truly a wardrobe workhorse!

Without further ado…

Three Ways to Wear One Skirt:

(1) Try color-blocking!

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Here I’ve paired the skirt with the silk-blend tee that I thrifted from Crossroads Trading Co (first posted here). I really love the resulting combination of yellow, white, black, and red. I feel like I’m channeling a really angry bee in this outfit. I added my pair of maroon faux fur earrings (DIY! and half hidden against my hair…), because bees are a little fuzzy, right?

As an aside, I’d like to take a moment to note that these are the first and only photos of this skirt that I’ve posted where the pleats are actually sitting properly. If only those pleats would sit like that every time! Maybe it’s because I never iron this skirt before wearing it…

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Yay laziness!

(2) Play with contrasting styles of dress:

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Why is my bottom half blurry in this photo? Did my photographer capture a warp in the space-time continuum?

I really like the contrasting silhouettes of such a short and tight top with the poofy and prim pleated skirt. The houndstooth pattern of the top, the fishnets, and the studded navy blue loafers add some punk rock vibes to what might have been a preppy silhouette.

(Apologies if anyone from the punk & punk rock scenes is reading this and believes I have used the terms incorrectly. I’m simply referring to fashion tropes, but feel free to enlighten me to a better use of the terms and/or a different way I could have described my outfit!)

Full disclosure: The houndstooth top is from American Apparel, a company that leaves me with a mixed bag of emotions. I like that they are committed to American manufacturing and they are widely accessible, but I wish they had more environmentally friendly options (like using more linen and organic cotton and less polyester) and their marketing campaign is arguably sexist. Usually I avoid them because I don’t want to support a company that I feel so uncomfortable about. But I couldn’t resist one of their recent summer sales, and I had been itching for an off-the-shoulder top for a very long time. I could have tried to make the top, but this was a case of convenience and price winning out.

(3) Try a tonal ensemble!

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As an adolescent, I was never a huge fan of pink. To me it was “too girly.” Only in the past five years have I realized how sexist that idea is: inherent in my initial dismissal of pink as “too girly” is the idea that being girly is a bad thing, and inherent in that is a very specific (and false) idea of what it means to be a girl. Pink is not inherently a “feminine” color; it was actually once considered more suitable for boys. The meanings associated with one color can change with time, but ultimately a color is, well, just a color.

Once I started letting go of my stereotypes about pink, I realized I actually really like it. I like the attention-getting *pop* of a neon pink and the subtlety of a pastel pink. So when I was trying to find an outfit for my former roommate’s wedding, I realized that this neon pink sweater (thrifted from Goodwill!) and my red skirt would go great together! Add some pink-violet lipstick and my vintage red leather heels and I am a walking display of reds. I’ve always wanted to try tonal ensembles. While what I’ve done here is not quite tonal layering, it’s the closest I’ve ever gotten!

So why does this skirt work so well and get worn so often?

  1. Durability: I put a lot of care into the sewing of this skirt. While there are many things about it that I would do better next time, overall it is a very solidly built piece because I made it intending to wear it for years. The fabric I chose is also very hardwearing: it’s a medium- to heavyweight “eco twill” made from organic cotton and recycled polyester that was probably intended for bags and work clothes. Which means it’s a little heavier than most dress fabrics, but it won’t tear or wear down anytime soon.
  2. Color: The skirt is a solid color, which makes matching it up with other clothing items a lot easier because I don’t have to worry about clashing patterns. While red isn’t typically considered a neutral color, it works with a lot of garments I already own.
  3. Pockets: A lot of ready-made garments that are marketed to women do not come with pockets. And even if they do, the pockets are usually tiny and unusable. But pockets are inherently practical features; they exist to keep things in, oftentimes important things like keys or tissues for allergy season. And I like practicality in my clothing. I also like to have a place to stick my hands if I’m feeling awkward. The pattern for this skirt included pockets in the side seams (woohoo!), but even if it hadn’t, I would have found a way to incorporate them, because I NEED POCKETS. (For more information on the politics of pocket distribution between the genders, check this article out.)
  4. Silhouette: The pleated, knee- to midi-length skirt is a classic silhouette and can be worn well by people of a variety of figures. And, as you saw above, I can rotate this skirt between a variety of formal and casual looks, which means I’m going to keep pulling it out of the closet year after year.
  5. Weight: The skirt is not quite summer weight, but it’s not wool coat weight either. It’s a nice in-between that works in all seasons. In the summer, the skirt’s volume still lets air reach my legs so I don’t suffocate. And in the winter, I can wear tights with it without feeling too restricted.

So, there you have it. My trusty old skirt came back for a few encores, and will likely come back again. I hope you all like her as much as I do!

—S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Tidy Unraveling

I’m back in Chicago, and while it’s nice to be in my little apartment again, near many of my good friends and close to my dear M., I do miss the feeling of being on vacation, even if vacation is just a week in my family home. Returning to work reminds me that I am ready for a career change; I’m still a little worker bee in appearance, but 90% of the time I am at my desk my mind is very much elsewhere. If I’m not worrying over the things I need to do to build my editing career or trying to drag myself back into fiction writing, I’m mulling over the hundreds and hundreds of clothing items that I want to bring to life. I have too many ideas, too much fabric, and not enough time.

So, to represent the slow and steady unraveling of my mind, my poor mind that is currently imprisoned in a mind-numbing desk job for forty hours a week, I brought my new thrift store purchase (the lacey sweater introduced in my last post) out to play. Unfortunately, my regular (and reluctant) photographer was not around, so I made do with the self-timer on my camera:

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I rolled up the sleeves of the sweater and tucked the front half into my skirt to decrease some of the volume and to bare a little skin (gotta enjoy the sun while it lasts!). Since the sweater is so lacey, I wore a black crop top underneath it. I actually made the crop top myself, out of a stretchy faux leatherhence the slight sheen in the second photo. If you’re interested in construction notes, I think I used the bodice from the free “Sonja Dress” pattern, available on Burdastyle’s website and created by Salme Patterns, but I’m not 100% sure as I made this top a very long time ago. The crop top looks nice from afar, but when you inspect it, it is obvious that I was a very ignorant sewer (not that I am that much more experienced now…). For example, the hem is bound with a woven bias tape. So even though the fabric is stretchy, the hem has lost all of its elasticity thanks to my weird design choice. And if I seam ripper the hem out, then there will be weird holes in the top, because faux leather is not forgiving… If I had added a zipper to the crop top, the hem binding wouldn’t be an issue, but of course I did not. Which means I can barely stretch the hem over my chest. Putting the garment on or taking it off is a real fun time.

I wanted to create some contrast with the delicate and gothic look of my top half, so I pulled out my trusty red pleated skirt to add some polish. I’ve never gone over the construction of my skirt on this blog, which is a shame because I want to give it the spotlight it deserves. The red fabric I used is an “eco twill,” which is made from a combination of recycled polyester and organic cotton. The fabric is heavyweight and was rather stiff when I first washed it, but it has softened over time. For a pattern, I used the skirt portion of Burdastyle’s “Princess Dress” (#121, 11/2012). The skirt pattern was pretty simple, although even after I took out four inches from the hem (I am short), it still used a lot of fabric (pleats seem to do that…). But I had to draft my own waistband, and I decided to use a simple rectangle. After a whole lot of trial and error, I’ve come to realize that my waistbands need to be a little curved in order to sit on my waist nicely. However, if I am feeling lazy or am restricted by time (both of which are often the case), I go with the simple, flat, rectangle waistband anyway… I am definitely still an amateur when it comes to sewing. But the invisible zipper insertion for this skirt went surprisingly well given how new that technique was to me at the time; the zipper isn’t completely invisible but it’s close enough that I’m not embarrassed to wear it out. The skirt also has pockets! Pockets triple the likelihood that I will regularly wear X garment.

Anyways, back to the focus of this post, which is my new (old) sweater. I love it! It’s rather oversized so, combined with the pleated skirt, this is a more voluminous silhouette than I’m used to sporting, but I think the sweater’s laciness balances everything out and I’ve actually found that I enjoy the “largeness” of this outfit.

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Here’s a shot of my shoulder (and side of my face…), so you can see the lace up close. I’m also wearing vintage clip-ons here (which I scored for $5 in Park Slope)!

There’s a second reason why the sweater’s delicate nature appeals to me. As I was paying for it, the cashier marveled at how none of the little threads had been torn. However, when I began to hand wash it I discovered there were indeed a few unraveling bits. I was a little disappointed, and tied off all of the loose threads that I could find, but I’m certain that there will be more breakage in this top’s near future seeing as I plan to wear it often and I am not the most graceful person. The more I consider it though, the more I think a slow unraveling will result in an even more beautiful and interesting garment. Now I am actually excited for the process to continue!

So concludes my adventures playing with thrift store purchases! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend full of joy and compassion. These past few days have been a little rough for me since M. and one of his closest friends had a very large falling out and I’ve been doing my best to support my healing partner. It’s been a reminder to me that we are all flawed human beings and we all make mistakes; what’s most important is that we acknowledge our mistakes and that we do our best to listen to one another. Ultimately, as a human species, we are all in this together.

Much love to all of you,
S. (a.k.a. A Misplaced Pen)

Summertime Dressing

Currently, all of my sewing supplies are sitting in plastic bins and cardboard boxes, waiting for me to clear some space in my new bedroom. My vintage sewing machine* looks so sad and neglected next to my hamper of dirty laundry.

So I don’t know when I’m going to get back to sewing again, even though my hands and mind are itching to test some ideas that have been floating around in my head and in my inspiration pool. Fortunately, during the month before my move I had anticipated this situation and let out some of my soon-to-be pent-up creative steam by constructing a quick and easy new outfit. I took my new ensemble out for a spin during a very humid day last month:

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So humid. So bright.
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Hanging out by the highway, like all of the cool kids do.

The two-piece construction kept my midriff cool, and the skirt is a wrap skirt so my legs got to breathe with every step.

How simple was the sewing process for this outfit? I didn’t make any precise measurements (unless you count holding the fabric up to my waist and marking where I should cut as “precise”) or use any pattern pieces (except for the pockets of the skirt)! The top is constructed from one rectangle (with two bust darts) for the front and two triangles for the sides/back. The skirt is four rectangles (one for the back of the skirt, two for the sides, and a long and lean one for the waistband) plus the aforementioned pocket pieces (inserted into the side seams). And both the top and the skirt fasten with the help of ties and snaps, so no zipper insertion was needed! The trickiest part was actually attaching the shoulder straps to the top. I used red bias tape, which I tried to align with the red lines on the fabric; that required a bit of patience and a couple of do-overs.

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I’m so happy about how easy this was that I can’t keep a straight face!

I really like the outcome, and I made it myself so I know no sweatshops were involved in the sewing of this outfit! To up the DIY aspect of my ensemble, I even wore a piece of leftover lace ribbon as a choker.

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My usual photographer was not available at that moment, #selfie.

I can’t wait to sew again, but for now I’ll console myself by donning old me-made pieces like the two above. 🙂

—S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

*It’s a c. 1970s or 1980s Husqvarna[!] that was free because a stranger kindly abandoned it to me!**

**Although I can understand why she did so because it’s a very finicky machine in its old age…

Slowing Down

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that (1) I’ve recently been taxing myself to the point of exhaustion by working as both a freelance editor and a nine-to-fiver; and (2) my partner M. and I have been together for three years now and our third anniversary occurred fairly recently. Well, M. and I had to delay our “fancy” anniversary celebration by almost a month because I was finishing up my fifth freelance assignment. I finished the assignment (thank goodness), so we were finally able to spend some time together, slow down, and appreciate each other.

As part of the celebration, we decided to take most of a whole weekend for ourselves (usually we’d spend Friday night alone and then spend Saturday night with friends). I’m glad we decided to be “selfish,” because we both realized how much we missed having a relaxing evening together. Not having work on the brain is an amazing feeling.

We spent our Friday evening at Tuscany on Taylor, an Italian restaurant in the University Village/Little Italy neighborhood of Chicago. While it’s not the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to, Tuscany on Taylor is usually delicious for the price point, exudes a relaxed atmosphere that Michael and I both appreciate, and focuses on seafood (I love seafood). M. and I split bruschetta and truffle fries as our appetizers. The bruschetta was mediocre, but the truffle fries hit the right spot. For the main course, we each ordered seafood pasta dishes, which were the stars of the evening. Mine (on the left) was off of the “daily specials” menu, so I don’t remember exactly what it was called. M. ordered the penne e capesante (penne with scallops, red pepper, and extra virgin olive oil):

We left the restaurant quite full and happy.

On Saturday evening, we dined at Parson’s Chicken and Fish, in the Logan Square neighborhood. They are not quite a “fancy” establishment, but I think their fried chicken may be the best I’ve ever had. M. and I shared a plate of hush puppies and an entire skillet of chicken, a decision that we both regretted (but not really) because we usually split a skillet among four people…

Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of the fried chicken, so a close-up of the hush puppies will have to do:

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I am so hungry for these right now.

For our date night at Parson’s, I wore a striped navy blue dress, which I made specifically to wear on my anniversary with M. (although I hadn’t expected our celebrations to be so delayed when I began constructing the dress). I paired it with mock garter fishnet tights, which, in tandem with the pinstripe-y nature of the dress’s fabric, gave me a bit of a late 1920s gangster vibe:

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To make this dress, I altered some Burdastyle patterns, specifically the “Open Back Dress” and the “Fitted Skirt.” I paired the bodice of the dress pattern with the fitted skirt pattern, changed the neckline of the dress bodice into a halter with a tie, and attached a slanted ruffle and a horizontal ruffle to the skirt. Ruffles and frills are trending in the fashion world this year, didja know? (Although one of those ruffles was actually added to hide some puckered seaming issues…ahem.)

Here’s a close-up of the neckline, where I almost succeeded in lining up the stripes:

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Almost…

Overall, I was really happy with the bodice, especially the back, which I made almost no modifications to (I regret not getting M. to take a photo of the backless glory of this dress; backless dresses are my new favorite clothing item for the summer!). But the skirt needed a lot more work to fit me well, and I’m not completely sold on how the bodice and the skirt look together. The flounces are fun, but I think the bodice was too simple in comparison. Despite these notes, I do like the dress as a whole, and I’ll definitely wear it again. I just don’t think I’ll make another version of it. I will definitely reuse my modified bodice and skirt patterns, but separately from one another.

Some huge pluses: I did learn a lot from sewing this dress, and it’s the most eco-friendly garment I’ve ever completed because…*cue drumroll*…it’s made from a thrifted bedsheet! A twin-sized, made in the U. S. of A., 50% cotton and 50% polyester bedsheet, to be exact. I think I paid less than $4.00 for it. And I have leftovers! While bedsheets can be a hit or a miss when it comes to making garments, this particular fabric is sturdy, sewed up nicely, and is just stiff enough for the flounces to stand away from the body a bit (which is what I initially wanted). So, if you’re a fellow sewing hobbyist (I dare not call myself a seamstress at this point, as my skills are still sorely lacking), and you’re looking for ways to beef up your fabric stash while being environmentally conscious, may I suggest browsing your local thrift store’s linens section? Just make sure to really feel the fabric before you make a purchase and get a sense of the weight and the drape, to see if it’s right for your project (or garment sewing in general).

Back to M.’s and my evening! After dining at Parson’s, we lined up on a busy sidewalk in Wicker Park and waited for our opportunity to get inside the Violet Hour. The Violet Hour is a beautiful cocktail lounge that is modeled after the speakeasy of yore. Their cocktails are reasonably priced for the quality (about $13 a drink) and the interior is cozy and elegant. They also change up their exterior fairly often, and it’s always fun to see what they settle on for a new mural. This time it was an “advertisement” for a long-gone restaurant:

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Once inside, we settled into the high-backed chairs, ordered our drinks, admired the chandeliers, and enjoyed the Violet Hour’s no cell phone policy. Instead of spending an hour looking at pictures of cute animals on the Internet (a regular occurrence between the two of us), we asked each other questions that we had never asked before and reminisced about parts of our pasts (together and separate) that we have fond memories of. And we took silly photos together (because we couldn’t completely resist the lure of technology). It was a great end to our weekend of slowing down.

I hope you have an opportunity to wind down and spend some time with a loved one this week. Cheers!

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Love,
—S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to write about any organizations or businesses that I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions.