Thursday, December 27, 2012

Corsets for My Cousin IV: Unlaced

The most important piece of advice I can give is to make sure that the pieces you buy to wear with your corset go with your wardrobe. You need to have a complete wardrobe. You need to have a working wardrobe. You can't just get an item to go with one outfit; it doesn't justify the cost. You have to be able to wear the item multiple ways or many different times.

I have a friend who put down over $450 on a corset, skirt, and blouse at the Renaissance Festival. She didn't wear it for more than four hours the day she bought it and has not worn it since. It's simply not worth the money.

So, in the final installment of this series, here are several day-to-day outfits without the corsets using the same wardrobe.

Unlaced I: Menswear

I do so love a menswear-inspired piece. This is pretty monochrome, but most of the tops would work very well with this, adding a single color to the outfit.

Unlaced II: Plum Fantastic

Another very simple outfit. Mixing a couple of purple tones and a neutral.

Unlaced VI: Bookish

And a mashup of the two! It really is amazing how many outfits you can create when you've got a good base of neutrals to play with.

Unlaced V: Purple Lady

And another one! I didn't mean to go with a purple theme; it just sort of happened.

Unlaced IV: Business Class

This one is definitely office wear. Without the blazer, it's a bit less relegated to the office, but I think it works with or without.

Unlaced III: This Dame Means Business

Another vintage-y number, this one with a pairing of the classic menswear blazer and the very feminine cloche hat. Pin the butterfly to the blazer to soften the edge of that item, and I think they blend nicely.

Unlaced VII: A Little Bit Pink

And lastly, something a bit cutesier and more pink. Just for the sake of doing something a little different. Personally, I'd put the flower at the waist to break up all the white and ivory.

I hope this has been helpful. I'll see you in the new year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Corsets for My Cousin III: Black

And now it's time for the black corset!

This one, as I mentioned before, is a better approximation of the one my cousin might be getting. Personally, I found the black to be more inspiring because of that; I could glance over at the corset sitting on my bedside table and say "Yes. That outfit would work."

The black, however, also carries with it the risk of being limited to all black gothy outfits and, while I do love the dark Victorian aesthetic, I wanted to make sure I incorporated a variety of different looks.

Black Corset I: Purple and Plaid

This is the outfit that kicked this whole project off, and I am very pleased with how it turned out. It's pretty traditionally girly, with the flower motifs and the rich purples and pinks, but I find it to be a very classy look. You could easily replace the corset with a vest and get a very similar feel, but the corset enforces the hourglass silhouette established by the full skirt and really kicks the femininity up a notch.

Black Corset II: Corporate Goth

Corporate goth. With a corset. I tried to incorporate a few traditionally feminine details to complement the corset's obviously feminine shape, so i added the ruffles around the neckline of the shirt, the floral accent on the shoe, and the more traditionally feminine look to the earrings. To that, I added the pencil skirt (traditionally feminine but with a harder edge than full skirts), the blazer, the trilby (the hat; the brim's narrow, so it's a trilby), and the boxy look to the bracelet. All together, it makes what I consider a nicely cohesive whole.

Black Corset III: Antique Damask

I admit, this one's a little bit boring. Classy, but boring. I love the combination of black and ivory, and the textures of the fabric of the skirt, the blouse, and the detail on the shoe all add visual interest. But it's still much less colorful and much more subdued than the other outfits in this set.

Black Corset IV: Pink and Black

I love the combination of soft, girly pink with the hard edge of black. Personally, for this particular set of clothes, I'd tie a pink ribbon around the waist to break up the hard black of the corset, and probably clip the flower to that ribbon.

Black Corset V: Into The Woods at Night

This one is another simple outfit, but the little punch of color in the green gives it more visual interest to me. I'd probably use the little black flowers or the black bows for earrings, just to pull the floral motif more into the accessories. Fairly simple, altogether.

Black Corset VI: Night Blooming Flowers

This is probably the most traditionally gothy of the bunch. It's also the simplest. Throw on a ruffled top, interesting skirt, tights, corset, and shoes and you're pretty much good to go. This combination could work with almost any of the tops in the set I used, but I felt like having at least one really gothy outfit, so here you go.

Black Corset VII: Halloween Costume

This is, of course, a costume, but I wanted to throw something in here to show how costumes can be made from ordinary wardrobe choices (something that I do yearly) with a few additions. This is, of course, a raven/dark angel/something ooky spooky and feathery. I took some of the same wardrobe elements, added a pair of wings and a mask, and pulled in one feather headband that would still be entirely appropriate in other outfits. Voila! A costume.

So there you have it. Six day-to-day outfits utilizing a black corset and one costume.

Next week, I'm going to have more outfits from this set, but without the corsets (because versatility is important with any wardrobe). For the final installment of this series, we're going to have a few outfits unlaced.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Corsets For My Cousin II: Brown

This week, the outfits I put together with the brown corset!

Now, remember, this corset isn't exactly what my cousin will be getting, but it's similar enough in design that it works well for examples. Remember, these are outfits put together to illustrate what can be done with corsets to make them look classy and mother-appropriate. The latter element is harder to achieve than the former, I admit.

Another point I'll make is that, because both corsets I'm working with are overbust corsets, they could theoretically be worn without the shirt beneath, but that would be both not mother appropriate and a bit less acceptable for daywear.

Brown Corset IV: Pink and Brown

This one's girly. The printed tight, the vintage floral dirndl skirt, and the lightly ruffled turtleneck all point nicely to a sort of 1950s pinup look, and the corset doesn't interrupt that by adding too much complexity with the accessories.

Brown Corset I: Forest Girl

I went super vintage with this one. I wanted something that would be just a little bit foresty and vintage without falling headlong into mori territory, and this definitely fits the bill. The cloche hat isn't for everyone and could easily be swapped out for a green headband or barrette or something. Add plaited hair and it'd be a bit like a grown up Gretel (which is a look I like, I admit!).

Brown Corset II: Simple and Romantic

This one was largely inspired by my readings of poetry. I like the contrast of the sheer, flowy skirt with the structured corset. Again, simple accessories: just a headband and those nicely detailed printed tights again. Simple and elegant and slightly pastoral.

Brown Corset III: Yes, Virginia, You Can Mix Neutrals

And last but not least, one of my favorite color combinations: black, ivory, and brown. I know people from here to Timbuktu say that black and brown don't go together. Well, fie on them.This one, with a top hat, maybe a different skirt, and some theatrical accessories, would make a great steampunk getup. As it is, it's somewhere between casual steampunk and I-don't-know-what-this-is-but-I-like-it Victorian-inspired... something.

I hope these have been at the very least interesting to you. Next week, we dive into the gothier side of things with outfits designed around the black corset.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Corsets For My Cousin I: The Wardrobe I'm Working With

So, I have a beloved cousin who may very well be inheriting my corsets at the end of the month. I have two, a brown and a black, that don't fit me particularly well (and, given the extreme nature of my hourglass figure, never truly did), so I am going to have her try them on. Hopefully, one or both will fit her nicely.

That said, she's never had a corset before. In addition to making sure that she can lace up the garments properly, I want to make sure she knows that there are a variety of ways that one can wear them.

I'm doing a series here to help her with that.

This is the first post I'll be making in the series, to establish a palette. The black corset shown is a pretty good approximation of the black corset she will be trying on. The brown is lovely, but, unfortunately, isn't exactly what she'll be trying out; polyvore didn't have anything that looked right, and this is the closest I could find.

Everything you see here is from stores she would reasonably shop at (Claire's, Maurice's, Wal-Mart, etc.), thrift store stand-by shapes, or easily made skirt shapes like dirndls or circle skirts.

Corset Wardrobe I: Tops

For tops, I went with a lot of ruffles because... well, I like ruffles. Obviously, they range from very casual ruffled sweaters and t-shirts to the much more formal Victorian-esque blouse, but they all have that design element in common.

I also wanted to include two layering pieces, for which I picked a lace bolero and a black blazer. Both are simple enough that they could be adapted to many different looks and could be incorporated into a corset-less outfit with ease.

Corset Wardrobe II: Skirts

For skirts, I went with mostly skirts that hit the knees. That's a "mother appropriate" concession, I admit, but I prefer my skirts knee-length or longer so it also aligns with my personal taste. Most of them are full - again, personal taste - and would flare nicely to accent the nipped-in waist that the corset gives. I also tried to make sure every one of them had something interesting to it, whether that be texture, color, print, or shape.

Corset Wardrobe III: Accessories

And accessories! I went with a lot of very simple things here and tried to keep things fairly neutral. Hats, hair accessories, a few pieces of jewelry, some tights that go with almost anything, shoes, and a set of earrings that offer plenty of choices and vintage charm. Personally, my wardrobe is possessed of accessory overload, but I did try to keep this to a few pieces that will match a lot of things.

Next week: outfits featuring the brown corset.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Historical Longings: Robe a l'Anglaise

Let me just say this first: I am not a Rococo girl.

I'm not. I know I'm into Lolita, but my inspiration comes from Victorian and retro images, primarily. And yes, I know what I said about the cemise a la reine. That doesn't count, either. It's not a rococo line; it's really more of an early example of what would become the clothing shape for the regency period.


For months now, I've been lusting after a garment I saw on Fairy Tale a la Mode. In a post she wrote about coordinating practice, she had this picture:

Honestly, I think that dress is perfect, and I want it. Even the color, somewhere between pear and olive, would match almost everything in my wardrobe. That failing, a beige-y ivory would work, too, or black or chocolate brown. But this green! And the cut! And I'm not a rococo girl, but it's so fabulous!

This, ladies, is the robe a l'anglaise. And I'm hooked.

Hailing from the mid-to-late eighteenth century, this is one of two major gown styles popular during that time.  The robe a l'anglaise had a fitted back:

Robe à l'Anglaise, 1770-75, Silk, metallic. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The look involves a full skirt and a 'robe,' which closes in the front but is open over the skirt. The back of the bodice comes to a point and is sewn into the skirt.

And, of course, there's the robe a l'francaise:

Robe à la française, 1760-70, Silk, cotton. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The skirt is full, and it is constructed in much the same way as the robe a l'anglaise (technically an overdress open in the front from the waist down), but the back was pleated and draped over the skirt. It was also known as a sack back.

Now, personally, I'm much more enamored with the robe a l'anglaise. The fitted back simply looks nicer, in my opinion. Not much else I can say to justify that opinion; just my aesthetic sense.

In terms of adding one to my own wardrobe, honestly, I'm torn. I could make one, and, in so doing, find the perfect olive fabric to match my wardrobe in a nice, sturdy, machine-washable variety. But I could also get one from, say, FanPlusFriend and save myself the cutting, sewing, and other madness that accompanies the making of such a dress.

One day, I shall acquire such a dress, though. And, when I do, it will be fabulous.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Historical Longings: Chemise a la Reine

Now, I'm not usually a Marie Antoinette girl. I find her absolutely fascinating as a historical figure and love the historical debate about her role in the onset of the revolution, but something about the extravagant wigs and excessive nature of her dress makes her less-than-appealing as a fashion icon to me.

But this dress.

The gaulle, or chemise a la reine, was introduced by Marie Antoinette in the early 1780s. In contrast to the highly structured garments worn by the French court and society at large, the gaulle was incredibly light, flowing, and simple. It consists of layers of thin muslin, loosely draped around the body and belted around the waist with a sash. Fashionable ladies of France and England quickly took up the trend.

There was, of course, scandal. The name "Chemise a la Reine" is a reference to the similarity the garment bears to the chemise worn at the time as an undergarment by ladies, a mocking moniker that notes that the queen looked, to many in the public, as if she had been painted in her underwear.

Despite the scandal, though, women wore it. The Duchess of Devonshire, a famous fashionista by any account, reported that she got one from Marie Antoinette. The fashion spread through England and France, and why shouldn't it? Look at these dresses.

They're frothy, fairly comfortable concoctions of draping and ruffles that are perfect for spring and summer.

I really want one. Preferably one that's been shortened to be appropriate for modern wear, but a historically accurate gaulle would do. I don't mean a mini-gaulle, of course; that would be ridiculous. No, I want a gaulle that's knee-length and just as full. I  Doesn't that sound like the world's most comfortable summer dress?

This dress gives you an idea what I'm looking for. It's a Lolita line, but without ruffles and frills and heavy fabric that would make the dress unbearable in summer.

Historical dresses: they're not just for paintings anymore.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We Interrupt Your Regular Broadcast for a Shameless Contest Post

As I've mentioned before, I love indie Lolita brands, so when I saw that Lady Sloth was running a contest, I simply had to enter. To enter the contest, I had to design my dream coord made with the lovely dresses she makes, and this is what I created.

A Walk Through St. James' Park

The skirt is her St. James's Park skirt, which I think is absolutely lovely. I decided to take a lot of historical influence (by which nobody is surprised) and put together what is very much a rococo outfit. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a rococo-esque bodice in a color I liked in cotton, so I had to use one in satin.

To keep it from getting too fancy (a danger with satin), I tried to keep the accessories fairly simple. The leather boots have a low heel and minimal embellishment. The hat is straw. A simple choker and cameo ring are the only jewelry. The tights are simple. The bodice embellishments are only flowers.

An updo, of course, is the only way to wear the hair with this. There's too much historic influence not to. I'd even be half-tempted to do a hedgehog hairstyle to make it a little extra wild.

And, to anybody reading this, go. Enter the contest, or just gape at the pretties.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Historical Longings: A Series for November

If you're like me, November is a time when the media bombards you with things you don't have and the message that you need to have them by going out shopping on Black Friday. As such, I am writing a series of posts that will comprise my incredibly consumerist wish list.

There is a catch, however.

If you've been paying attention, you'll have noticed my penchant for historical fashion. The media, of course, misunderstands what items, precisely, I am the target audience for and so I am going to write a wish list not for items that are on the market but items that would have to be made in order to find their way into my wardrobe. Because all of them will be historical clothing.

I hope you'll embark on this insane journey with me and make your own wish list.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On Concerts and Fashion

A little over a month ago, I attended Amanda Palmer's concert at First Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I got beer splashed on me, had a very drunk girl fall on my feet, didn't get back until 1:30 in the morning, and had to go to work the next day running on almost zero sleep. And it was totally worth it.

I love concerts. I especially love concerts that offer a strong aesthetic in both audience and performance. This concert absolutely delivered. The music was fantastic, and there was a sense of theatricality going through both the performers and the audience. This concert was full of self-expression of all sorts, not the least of which was in the clothing that people chose to wear.

Amanda, herself, was gorgeous as always. She was sporting a bra, corset, gold leggings, tons of bracelets, stage makeup like crazy, and a lot of jewelry shoved in her bra and belt.

Just as awesome looking were my fellow attendees (sadly, I didn't get many pictures of the most fabulous outfits I saw, so I'm borrowing the ones I'm posting here from Citypages) I was amazed at how many different levels of clothing I saw, from people in t-shirts and jeans to full-out goth looks to hipster-y throwbacks to the 1980s. There was a woman in a kilt-like full skirt who was one of the nicest people I met. There were girls in corsets and guys in top hats. There were guys in corsets and girls in top hats, for that matter. Myself, I wore casual gothic/classic Lolita.

It was, quite frankly, a delightful mishmash of styles, and there were compliments flying in line as I waited for the doors to open. A young lady photographing for Citypages rushed by the line, picking out a few people every-so-often to photograph. I was rather surprised when I was one of them.

Seriously, wasn't everyone looking amazing? I think part of the fun of waiting outside the venue was looking at the incredibly wide variety of looks people were sporting.

Oh, right. And there was me.

Tights: Target
Blouse: Mossimo (several years old)
JSK: Bodyline
Underskirts: Handmade
Flowers etc.: Claire's and Target
The Citypages photo of me, unfortunately, did not feature a smile, so the only decent shot I got of my outfit where I don't look cranky was at 1 am in the parking garage. Ah, well, I'm pleased with it.

And all of this, of course, got me thinking about clothing as it pertains to concerts in general.

There are always people who attempt to mimic the performer's style as much as possible when they attend a concert, whether or not it's how they actually dress. And there are people who dress the way they usually do. And there are people who use concerts as an excuse to dress the way that they want to dress but can't due to work or some other social limitation.

I'm usually of the third type. I ramp up my clothing for a concert because I can, but I can see an argument for any of the options.

Personally, I'm not a fan of mimicking the artist's style, though. Taking inspiration from, certainly, but outright miming their aesthetic sense seems... off to me. Part of what makes people want to mimic the style is that the performer is unique visually and musically, and I find it more honest and more in the spirit of creation to take a little bit of their aesthetic and to blend it with your own. I know imitation is supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery, but I find that inspiration is: it's not finding an artist's work important enough that you wish to copy it, but important enough that it inspires you to try to create something as great. And, in terms of clothing, that leaves you a lot of wiggle room.

That's my personal take on the issue, though. If you disagree, that's fine. I won't judge you for your clothing choices so long as you don't judge me for mine.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Inspired Outfits: The Orphan's Tales

The inspiration that I get from books can be... varied. Sometimes, the tone they give me is so out of the ordinary for me that I just sort of follow along.

Such is the case with Catherynne Valente's books.

I love her books. They're poetic and shifting and mythic and folded, labyrinthine, over each other. But that doesn't really jive with the structure I usually have in the clothing that I like. They fit more with an ethnic and bohemian vibe.

But that doesn't mean they don't inspire me. And so I made these.
The Orphan's Tales - Golod
Golod was a strangely inspiring character in In The Cities of Coin and Spice. A beast composed entirely of teeth and hunger, I wanted there to be something off about this outfit. Ivory was a natural choice for the color, of course, but I wanted to emphasize both the fluid motion of the clothing and the sharp points of the teeth.
I'd probably pair this set with hollow-eyed makeup, just enough to make it eerie.
The Orphan's Tales - Zmeya
Zmeya was probably the most atmospheric character in any of the tales. A beautiful woman who, it is discovered, is much more serpentine than she seems.

I wanted this to be a bit exotic and belly dancer inspired. I didn't make the clothing white, although her description specifically mentioned white veils, because that sort of clothing doesn't get the same sultry effect across without a face attached. Instead, then, I went with a dark-toned palette and shifting fabrics with copious snake accents.

There are no shoes here, and this is for a reason. Zmeya was kept in specific chambers with no entrance but by the sultan's chambers.
The Orphan's Tales - Ajanabh
Finally, Ajanabh. I loved Ajanabh. I sunk into its walls and wanted to live there. And I'm pretty sure that this shows through in this outfit.

Red shoes were a must, for the dancing master's cinnamon scented heels. A violin, too, for Agarfena. Black chiffon blouse for her smoky hair. The skirt and its dusty colors were lifted from the tone of the city. I merely followed the tone of a run-down city and found this.

Just a little more bookish inspiration for you, readers.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Clothing and Empowerment: Why I Look the Way I Do

A lot of people go, Oh I hate putting a suit on and how can you be comfortable in a suit? And it's like, because this is like medieval armor for me. When I put this on, it's like when you see in the movies and they put a breastplate on and there's a valet and he's standing next to him and a page, and they light a candle and whatnot and I kneel down in front of the thing and I cross myself and I kiss the end of my sword, and I look up at a picture of the king - oh fuck yeah! - and there's a giant purple crystal hanging over my head, and Nicol Williamson is there with a conical hat with mystic runes on it and shit, and an owl flies into the room and sits on his shoulder and looks at me knowingly, right? And then, I fucking put my thing on and they put my cape over me and I mount a giant horse and shit like that. That's what this feels like to me. I feel like I have the protection of the Lord, and that I might go on the crusades - safely - and return with massive booty, and sack Jerusalem, and even meet a Saracen girl. All those things go through my mind when I put my suit on.
--Greg Proops, from his Smartest Man in the World podcast

Yesterday, I realized something as I dragged my copper glitter eyeliner across my lashline and pinned my slouchy beret to my hair: this is my armor.

I don't mean armor in the sense of putting a barrier between myself and the world, an appearance that makes me unapproachable. No. The clothes I wear and, when I think to put it on, my makeup are one of my ways to feel strong and confident. When I wear them, I can walk up to people and chat with them more easily. I don't get flustered. I can speak confidently when others approach me. Cat calls don't get to me. Insults bounce off. The world can't hurt me. I am invincible. I am strong.

A lot of people may not get this. Ruffles and lace, corseted bodices, flowers pinned up and down the side of my head until I look like I have sprouted a garden... it doesn't compute. If I am to be strong, the world thinks, I must don traditionally masculine garb or some semblance of it. My clothing would assign me to a chair in the kitchen or by the window, waiting for someone to come rescue me.

That is, of course, bullshit.

Some people feel empowered by that, certainly. I'm not trying to discount that, but that's not the only way to feel strong. Some people feel empowered by wearing miniskirts. More power to you. Some people feel empowered by wearing suits. Awesome. Some people feel empowered by wearing clothing that allows them to move with ease. Go for it. Wear whatever makes you feel your most confident, your strongest, your wisest, your best.

I feel empowered when I am wearing full skirts and a heaping helping of barrettes.

And maybe I'll be the lady waiting at the window, the princess in the high tower. But it's even more likely that I'll be the crusading knight. Maybe I'll climb a mountain. Maybe I'll discover new places. Maybe I'll cross deserts to find something I can call holy. Maybe I'll meet a Saracen and communicate haltingly in mime until we come to some form of understanding.

And maybe I'll do it in skirts. With the way I feel when I put them on, nobody can stop me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Handling Reactions: Why I Love my Small Town

I have a confession to make: in terms of reactions to my clothing while I lived in my small hometown, I've been lucky.

At home, I have never been asked, "Are you in a play?" I have never been called names. Nobody has ever tried to look up my skirt to see "what makes it poof." I have never been asked if it's a costume, never been accused of having a fetish or of it being a phase. I have only once been asked if I was going to a play, and that was by a friend who thought I was a little extra dressed up that day, which I was.

My mother occasionally asks me if that is what I wore, or what I am wearing, but that's my mother and she will ever be operating under the delusion that I will one day become irrefutably normal.

Other than that, the responses I receive are always, always always positive, or, at the very least, so neutral that one would be tempted to believe that everyone goes out to the grocery store like that. I don't know if it's just that the times I ventured out are the times when the older generation of my hometown are running errands or if the stores I visit are extra positive or if I just happened to live in an extraordinarily weirdness-positive town, but the responses I got are always nice.

I occasionally had older ladies tell me that they used to go out dancing in outfits like I was wearing or compliment me on my rhinestone skeleton hand necklace while I went through the line at church for Wednesday night supper before choir practice (no, I am not kidding).

Older gentlemen tipped a hat or held doors open for me.

Shop owners told me that I look adorable. One even informed me that I looked like an American Girl doll (I had just purchased a vintage Sterlite suitcase and was wearing a very vintage-inspired Lolita look).

People my own age either simply did not gawk or told me that my shoes were cute.

The ladies at church love my tentacle barrettes, which they always mention when I visit.

As I said, I don't know why people react in this way. I'm not so sheltered as to believe that the reactions in all small towns will be this way, and I have certainly become aware that, since I moved, I've entered a whole new environment that is either less welcoming or less aware of the strange things I wear. But, for those who are afraid to jump out into the world of weird in their clothing, I just want to say that there is hope. You never know when the old ladies at church or the random mother on the street will compliment you. Positivity comes in all shapes and sizes. You will find someone, or even a town full of people, who find your style to be amazing and are unafraid to tell you so.

But you won't know until you try.

The hardest part, when people are positive, is to know what to do. You might be tempted to think that they are mocking you, but, unless they're obviously making fun of you, just act in a polite manner. Thank them, smile, and move on.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

You Go, Pretty Androgyne: A Fashion Pipe Dream

I know. Considering how often I talk about dresses, corsets, skirts, and hair accessories, this title probably came as a bit of a shock, but hear me out.

I wish I could pull off androgyny.

I simply love the look of it, this fluid clothing choice that lands itself somewhere between our gender stereotypes and stays there, looking fantastic to all and confusing to some. Suits especially catch my eye because they are fantastic.

It's not being able to dress like a man and be seen as a man. I'm a woman and I do not intend to change that. However, there is something appealing to me about slipping, for a while, into the gray areas between society's definitions of shape and style for the genders. I adore menswear (especially period menswear, which, I am certain, comes as no surprise to you, dear readers) and really do wish I could pull it off without looking like I went through puberty midway through dressing myself.

This is not something I've merely idly toyed with, unfortunately. I've looked at the idea of binding and even tried a few methods, but The Girls wouldn't budge. At least, not enough. I've tried on as many pieces of menswear-inspired clothing as possible (especially vests), but nothing ever really suited me unless it was cut so curvaceously that the androgynous look was lost completely. I always look distinctly woman-shaped. My body simply isn't suited to the look.

This, of course, became much more apparent to me when I began to explore subcultural fashion.

Goth was my first subcultural love, and it will forever be something that I enjoy, if not a label I apply to myself or to my wardrobe. It plays with so many themes, and gender is always one of them. This especially applies to young men in makeup, but young women get in on the act, too, and it is fantastic. (Forgive the picture, but the internet was unhelpful at finding outfit shots for me, so this H&M ad is the closest I could find to what I'm talking about here)

Exploring Lolita made me fall in love with androgyny all over again. Kodona and ouji style are just another fantastic romp in the world of gendered fashion, and I adore them. Especially with the historical influence, these two are right up my alley.

But, alas, it is not to be. I have a stocky, wide-hipped frame inherited from my German ancestors and ample breasts on top. This hourglass figure cannot be bound into a rectangle.

So I will watch from the sidelines, fitting clothing for and giving suit advice to my friends of all sexes and gender expressions and wishing that, just once, I could pull off the look. Boy, girl, genderqueer, androgyne, or any other identity, you're all fabulous and I am proud to be the curvy girl in frills and strange barrettes shouting “You go, pretty androgyne!”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On Openwork Tights and Why You Should Have Some

I love openwork tights. Lace, especially, but any sort of openwork tights will do. I love wearing them alone, but I love wearing them layered even more. Why layer tights? There are plenty of reasons to layer your hosiery.

Visual texture. They can turn a plain pair of gray tights into a crocheted masterpiece.

Tone down a bright color or create a new color. You might be a bit... uncomfortable... with having bright purple legs, or your bright purple might not match perfectly with your outfit. Layer black or gray openwork to tone down a color, or layer sheer tights to blend colors. It works, and it's fun to experiment.

Warmth (this is the big one for me). Openwork tights can be chilly. Layering them, even over a nude-colored pair of tights, makes the look much warmer.

Versatility. It's hard to find argyle or floral tights in all the colors you might want, but it's pretty easy to find a neutral openwork tight and any colors you want. Just one pair of colored tights and one pair of openwork gives you three separate combinations. Imagine what you can do with a collection.

The easiest to find will be black openwork. Of all types. But with a bit of work you can find plenty of other colors, and you can combine them to get looks like these:

Layered black openwork over blue over at Sartoriography.
Maroon tights under white thigh-highs are classy and vintage by Arinn.
Trystan of This Is Corp Goth showing us all how it's done by layering brilliant purple fishnets over black

Color over color over at What I Wore 2day. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely fun. Layer similar colors, like this, or very different colors for a hugely funky look.

There are a whole lot of different looks you can get, and these aren't even all of them. The only rule, really, is that the tights need to fit. If they are too tight, you'll only end up uncomfortable and spending the whole day worrying if the too-tight top of the tights gives you a sausage-y look. If they are too big, you'll end up looking floppy, like a little girl with falling-down socks.

So, where the heck do you get these wonderful tights? Anywhere.

Target, Wal-Mart, wherever! Always check the hosiery section, especially the clearance. Most big box stores will have a limited selection, but that's why you check every time you're in there for groceries or craft supplies. Even if you find one good pair, the two minutes you spend walking over there will be worth it. I found a pair of ivory floral lace tights, miraculously in my size, at Target and now I check their hosiery section every time I'm there.

Essentially any clothing store. I favor stores like Kohl's and J.C.Penny, but that's my personal preference. Again, make a beeline for the hosiery section and look for the deals. You're more likely to find a variety of colors at department stores, so here's an ideal place to check for whatever color you desire.

We Love Colors is great if you're looking for multicolored fishnets or solid tights, and they come in plus size! But, seriously, 51 colors? I have a wish list of colored tights that I want, and they've singlehandedly covered the entirety of it. As for the price, it's fairly reasonable and they'll last you a good long time if you take care of them.

Sock Dreams is a great go-to. Their stock isn't limited to tights, so if you're looking for over-the-knee socks or almost anything else, they'll probably have it.

Celeste Stein is pretty much legendary for their printed tights, but they've got a great selection of fishnets and other openwork tights that are worth checking out.

For big girls, sites like OneStopPlus can definitely be the way to go. They've got a variety of plus-size openwork tights from several different brands, and a few of them even come in colors other than black and gray. I've got several tights purchased from them, including a pair of plum floral lace tights that I adore, and they are certainly going strong.

So go forth and layer!