Learning about clothes by making clothes yourself

15 Apr

If I haven’t mentioned it already, I’m an experienced crocheter.  My Mom started me on crocheting, embroidery, and sewing when I was a kid.  Over the years,  the desire to crochet has come and gone.  I’ve made some amazing doll outfits, crocheted doilies and centerpieces, scarves and hats, a really sweet oversized top, and a somewhat unintentionally oversized cardigan.  Recently, I finished making two tank tops, one in pink and one in black.  Neither fits quite the way I would like, but, by creating two Tests, I learned a lot about my body, about sizes, and about how to adapt some crochet patterns to fit better.

Here’s the thing: I happen to be short.  Last year, I started buying Petite pants, and recently started purchasing Petite sized dresses.  It was last year that I noticed that clothes weren’t fitting me properly–I seemed to have a lot of “back fat” or items were too long in the crotch or too tight across the bust and ill fitting everywhere else.  Now, most women I know (including myself) would say, “ugh! I just can’t find anything to fit me! There must be something wrong with my body! I’m going to have to go on a diet…”

Well, the problem isn’t with one’s body per se.  The problem, really, is in buying the wrong sized, wrong proportioned clothing.

Most women, IMO, don’t think about the proportions of clothing.  Not just the chest or hip or waist measurements,  but also the torso length, where one’s natural waist is located, or the length from shoulder to bottom of armpit (there are other measurements, such as inseam and rise, which I talked about in this post.)   Most of us go into a store, pick from one of the small-medium-large sizes or number sizes in the Misses department, and if we can’t find what fits, get disgusted and leave.  I know for years I wore clothes that were too big for me because my body had changed and I didn’t quite understand (nor did anyone tell me) that perhaps I was buying clothing of the wrong proportions and not the wrong size.

I also thought there was something wrong with me, with my body.  If I could lose weight, I’d fit into a perfect size 8 or 6 or whatever size.  The truth is, once one becomes a full-grown adult (as opposed to a Junior size)  proportion matters more than the number size.  Really!!

This is the simple to crochet tank.  My proportions are quite a bit different from the model's. See below for the link to the pattern

This is the simple to crochet tank. My proportions are quite a bit different from the model in this pic. See the link to the right for the pattern

So, here’s what I discovered by making the tank:  as per the instructions I first did a gauge swatch to make sure I would be using the right hook.  No problem there.  I’d be using a G hook and a soft 4 ply worsted yarn (I prefer Caron’s Simply Soft–a favorite, inexpensive yarn that works up nicely.)   First, I would make the pink tank since I wanted it to be part of a sweater set.  I made some preliminary body measurements, and decided to adjust the pattern to fit those measurements.  I took two inches off the length of the body and 4 rows from the arm to the neck shaping.  I then took another 2 inches from the neck shaping to the shoulder.

Once I tried on the top, I noticed that the armhole and shoulders were perfect but it seemed a little snug across the chest.  So, for the next tank, which I would make in black, I decided to follow the instructions exactly as they are printed (here’s the pattern from the Yarnspirations website.)  Since the finished bust size on the large is 40 inches, I believed this size would give me plenty of room.

It gave me more than enough room across the chest, but far too much room in the armhole and the shoulder strap length.  That’s because I happen to be a Petite–not that there’s a problem with my body–and the pattern is proportioned for someone who’s definitely taller (by several inches.)

So, I will now made a third top, using the finished chest measurement of the large size, but making adjustments in the depth of the armhole and in the neck shaping.

It will be interesting to see if these particular adjustments will create a tank in the correct, not too snug fit.


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Tuesday Menswear Moment: Ty Burrell

11 Mar
Ty Burrell and co-star Max Charles at a screening for Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Ty Burrell and co-star Max Charles at a screening for Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Why am I so excited about Ty Burrell??  Well, not only is he Phil Dunphy on Modern Family….he’s also the voice of Mr. Peabody in Mr. Peabody and Sherman, as well as the dastardly Jean Pierre Napoleon in the upcoming Muppetts Most Wanted.

How can you not get excited over a middle-aged guy with such a great sense of humor??  and a great sense of casual style.  (a friend of mine requested that I show some casual style and Ty’s got it.)  Here he is with co-star Max Charles at a screening for Mr. Peabody and Sherman.  The key to what he’s wearing is great fit and great color.  A great pair of well-fitting (not baggy, not tight) straight jeans, with a sweater-shirt combination in shades of teal blue.  No tie necessary, as it’s a casual combo, best suited for a “casual Friday” where dress denim is allowed. (note that Ty’s also in last week’s GQ’s Last Night Must-See Menswear column for his shirt and tie combos.)

If he wanted to dress it up just a bit more, he could add a patterned tie, perhaps in a plaid or stripe, and dark gray trousers, to give it more of a work appropriate feel.

And here’s another look that also scores on the casual-work scale….Ty Burrell shirt and tie comboOne reason I love this photo and shirt-tie combo is that it’s one that I put together for my boyfriend…come to think of it, Ty Burrell kind of resembles my boyfriend…. he’s got a bit more hair on top though, but you get the idea :)

But back to Ty’s style.  In looking through a number of photos of Ty, he does a lot of mini-check or striped button-down collar shirts.  Button-downs are considered more casual than the spread or pointed collar sans buttons.  There’s nothing that says you can’t match a mini-check button-down with a great tie though.  Ty’s ties are usually solid, either straight thin or  hand-tied bow ties, which, in solids, look fabulous.  He also matches blue chambray with plaid or polka-dot ties, which gives chambray a bit more of a work-type look.

Chambray, btw, is all over, for women and men, for Spring.  So, as long as your office isn’t business formal, a quality blue chambray with a cool tie a la Ty will work perfectly!

Finally! Heels are LOWER! More on Shoes for Spring-Summer 2014

10 Mar
My local DSW on a Friday afternoon...

My local DSW on a Friday afternoon…

Steve Madden Ireney D'orsay Flat in gold.  comes in black too

Steve Madden Ireney D’orsay Flat in gold. comes in black too

Took a trip to my local DSW the other day, and while I didn’t find much color on the shelves just yet, I found a plethora of kitten heels, flats, and heels hovering around the 3 to 3.5 inch height.  Not to mention that there were hardly any humungous platforms or sky high stilettos that have had women hobbling around for the past couple of years.

The shapes of shoes have changed slightly, too.  I saw a bunch of round-toe pumps reminiscent of the court shoes of the 1980s.  Now, I’m not impressed with those, especially since most of the lower heels pictured on celebs and in fashion mags are all pointy-toe.  Maybe they’re waiting to roll out the pointy-toe ones until a bit later in the season.  There were plenty of D’Orsay style, in medium height, kitten, and flat heels. Some of the flats also had cute ankle straps and pointy toes.

Nine West Selena D'Orsay Pump with Kitten heel

Nine West Selena D’Orsay Pump with Kitten heel

The best selection right now is in patent leather and neutral, skin tone shoes.  The skin tone shoes will be great to wear from early spring all the way through till Fall, and are amazingly flattering on just about everyone.  Shop around and find a pair that is a close match–or even exact match– to your own skin tone for a sleek look.  A lot of gorgeous pointy-toe black patent leather shoes are out there right now, some with contrasting white or beige trim or with a cap toe (I have super fond memories of black patent leather Mary Janes when I was a kid.  The classic “Easter shoe.”)

Bandolino Intimate Pump $49.95  Black and white patent!

Bandolino Intimate Pump $49.95 Black and white patent!

Now’s not the time to buy a pair of sandals, unless you’re traveling to a warmer climate and really need a pair.  Gladiator styles, especially high, boot-style gladiators, will be showing up for the summer, as will platform sandals with fabric, sculpted, or woven-texture wedges.  Stick to pumps and flats and you’ll find some beautiful styles and great buys!

Women, Men, the Oscars, and Getting Older in the Public Eye

4 Mar
Kim Novak's Oscar face.  Not what her face might have been without a surgeon's touch.

Kim Novak’s Oscar face. Not what her face might have been without a surgeon’s touch.

Even before the Oscars broadcast started, I decided not to write a post about the gowns.  When it comes down to it, what do I really care about who wore what couture gown to Hollywood’s ultimate self-congratulation-fest?  Obviously, I don’t wear gowns, as there aren’t too many places in my world that are gown-worthy–and the only couturier I’ll be seeing any time soon is myself.  Yet, once again, we had some nastiness at the Oscars.  Rather than the nastiness directed at women by a snidely sneering smarmy host, this year’s nastiness was directed at women — notably, OLDER women–by the Twittering masses.

The worst was, perhaps, said about Kim Novak.  It seems that Novak, one of Hollywood’s Golden Girl Beauties, was there to present the award for Best Animated Film, alongside Matthew McConaughey.  Yet she could barely speak.  We don’t really know why, but many surmised that it had something to do with the plumping and slashing of the plastic surgeon’s toolkit.  It could also simply have to do with being old–she’s 81, after all–and not everyone is sprightly at 81.

Now, we’ve seen old men dodder around and trip over one another on the Oscar stage.  When Kirk Douglas appears on TV on the odd occasion, we say “how wonderful! he’s still getting around AT HIS AGE.”

About a woman, we say, “oh, what’s WRONG with her?” or “What did she do to her face?”  Or something equally derogatory.  We do not think that, maybe, she’s been ill, or that she’s, like any of the other men out there, simply getting old.

Perhaps it’s our memories of Hollywood’s Golden People, or that their youthful images are always in front of us, that we are shocked when we see them as “old people.”  Perhaps we expect them to be, like bugs in amber, beautifully preserved and always youthful.

Or is it that we expect women to, as they say, “age gracefully”–whatever that means.  We see a jowly, some what rubber-faced, 70 year old Robert De Niro and say, “he looks pretty good for his age,” when we see him cast as the husband of 55 year-old Michele Pfeiffer.   Or, “wow, I didn’t how he was 71″ when we see Harrison Ford starring opposite Daniel Craig, who’s about half Ford’s age.
Men age and become action heroes, like the 61-year old Liam Neeson in “Non-Stop.”  Women age, and they become drunken harpies, like 64- year old Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County.”  Men become adventurers–like Robert Redford.  Women become wicked witches–like Jessica Lange, who is 13 yrs younger than Redford (although I will say I *love* all of Lange’s “American Horror Story” wicked witches. And they are *very* cool.)

We don’t care about a man’s skin regimen or his hairstyle.  We certainly did forgive Bill Murray for a serious case of Crazy Professorhead

Bill Murray sports a W.C. Fields nose and Crazy Professorhead hair at the Oscars

Bill Murray sports a W.C. Fields nose and Crazy Professorhead hair at the Oscars

(although some did remark “wow, did HE get OLD.”  BTW: he’s 16 years younger than Novak…..)

It’s just that, for women, the expectations of how one will age, and then how one will appear in public, with all that age, are so, so much higher than they are for men.  Men seem to be able to wrinkle, grow curmudgeonly (like Ford,) leer lecherously (like Jack Nicholson,) and drink excessively (like Murray is known to do,)  without the Thundering Hordes of Social Media going all berserk.

What is it, then, about all the Hollywood plastic surgery that keeps maiming and destroying the faces of so many beautiful women?  Who are the jokers who keep promoting plumpers and fillers, and slashing and pulling?  Why do they keep giving women duck lips, trout pouts, unresponsive foreheads and cheekbones rounder than the Campbell Kids??  It seems to be something of a national tragedy that so many feel they cannot show the face that nature gives them once they are known for The Face that Hollywood made them.


Fashion Trend Spring-Summer 2014: ORANGE

28 Feb

It wasn’t just when I was leafing through my March fashion mags that I noticed the surfeit of orange.  It was also when I was shopping the other day.  Orange, orange everywhere!  and I’m not talking shades like tangerine or coral.  I’m talking serious ORANGE.  Like Florida fruit orange.  Like Syracuse University Orangemen ORANGE.  It’s bad enough that there are no words to rhyme with orange, let alone have to try to incorporate this color into one’s spring-summer wardrobe.  That is, unless you keep it pretty simple with a lot of navy, white, and chambray shirts.  Then, orange to your heart’s content!
However, for those of us whom orange would be an imprudent fashion choice, I’d suggest the following:

1. Go for the footwear.  Shoes are always a great primary accessory to have in a fashion color.   I’m really fond of

The Stacey flat available at Shoemint.com $69.98.

The Stacey flat available at Shoemint.com $69.98.

Shoemint’s Stacey flat.  But if you want something more summer-y, I’d wait till more of the spring-summer goods roll out.  There should be a good selection at most stores.

2.  Scarves, purses and other accessories.  I’m going to crochet a nice, but not too big, purse that I can use as a clutch or shoulder bag.  Yes, my skills are *that* good :)

3.  Go for the lipstick.  I purchased the NP Set “Noosa” lipstick that I featured in this post.  I’ve been playing with it–changing up the lip liner and gloss to get the right look for me.  For the most part, I like it.  In a couple of days I’ll have a tutorial on how I apply it and make it work for me.

Swimwear is also another place to display orange (but I haven’t even considered looking at swimwear yet.  Not when it’s -1 degree outside.)  So, don’t think that you have to have that orange skirt or dress or anything that won’t work for you, because you can find an accessory that will update your look pretty easily.


**Note:  Pantone said the “it” color this year is “Radiant Orchid”–but I haven’t seen it much anywhere.  Not even in home decorating.  Pantone may have missed the mark with this one.

To the Last Drop: Getting the Most Bang for Your Cosmetics Buck

27 Feb
Getting  ready to break the top of the old bottle to get to that last application of serum at the bottom.

Getting ready to jailbreak the top of the old bottle to get to that last application of serum at the bottom.

IMO, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to get that last bit of soap or cream or foundation out of whatever bottle or tube it comes in.  I like to get every last drop of whatever product it is that I’ve paid for–esp. if it’s something like a cleanser or cream or hair product.  I take the fancy plastic tops on squeeze containers just so I can bend the tube in all sorts of ways tubes were not meant to bend in order to get that little bit of stuff that’s under the rim.  I’ll even “jailbreak” those seemingly unbreakable applicator tops just to get that last bit of stuff at the bottom of a bottle–which can be rather nicely scraped out with the flat end of a coffee stirrer.

And there are so many other cool ways to save or scrape the last bits of a product without diluting it (which sometimes seems to be the only way to get at it.)  Leave a shampoo or conditioner bottle upside down for a day or so for the last bit to slide down to the cap, then take the whole cap off.  The last bit of product will usually be sitting in the bottom.  Got a lipstick that you love that is at the very end?  This can be warmed in a microwave (WARMED, not melted. DO NOT melt it. Melting can change the color ever so slightly or the ingredients could separate.)  Then, it can be easily squashed into a round pillbox, using another coffee stirrer.  Then use a lip brush to apply it from the pillbox container.

I *love* reading about how others get the most out of their products–or how they keep expensive product from getting damaged.  Check out this post at HSN for a few other good tips.  And if you’d like to, share one of your tips or fast fixes in the comments :)

Tuesday Menswear Moment: Bobby Cannavale

25 Feb
Bobby Cannavale and Rose Byrne at the 2013 Emmys. Bobby gets the details right with a simple well-tailored dark suit and trim silk tie.  No satin lapels needed.

Bobby Cannavale and Rose Byrne at the 2013 Emmys. Bobby gets the details right with a simple well-tailored dark suit and trim silk tie. No satin lapels needed.

Bobby Cannavale is the kind of guy my Mom would never let me date: tall, dark, very Italian in so many ways.  And when he was on Boardwalk Empire, all I could think about were some of the stories my Mom told me about her childhood….and gangsters coming to my grandparents’ home.  But it’s what he said in the March, 2014 print edition of  Esquire that got me to take another look:

“Details count.  They’re a sign of maturity, of the fact that you’re not just hanging out in a stinky bar anymore.  It’s more like sitting in a good little place, having a real drink and a good conversation, when your friend goes, Hey Man, that sweater’s cool.  Drinking old-fashioneds and complimenting each other’s socks and sweaters; That’s what men do.  Doesn’t mean I’m going to run out and start wearing bolo ties.”

This quote reminds me of two things: (1) that more women would benefit if they too paid attention to details, and (2) that women might want to consider complimenting men more than we do. I don’t know, but I think that men often get short-shrift when it comes to compliments. Sure, we’re apt to criticize men when they don’t dress well, but what about when they do? Do we take the time to notice? Do we (if we have fashion sense) help them to put together great outfits so that they will look good not just for us but for the world? Don’t we want our men to look great, whether it’s in suits or jeans or whatever? Sure, there are guys who really don’t care about how they dress, but there’s a good number that do, and appreciate the subtle advice. IMO, we girls appreciate it too–whether we like to admit it or not. So, let’s help each other look more like grown-ups and less like badly dressed teenagers. :)

Photo courtesy of HQWallpapers


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