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!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When You're Upset: Dressing for the Mood You Want

As you may have guessed from an old post of mine, I am a proponent of dressing however the hell you like to make yourself feel better. I've employed this many a time: after job rejections, after a really long day, or just because I woke up in a bit of a funk. I dressed myself not for how I felt at that moment, but for how I wanted to feel. And, usually, it got better.

So here's my advice for what to do, and how to dress, when you're having a bad day.

 First and foremost: wear what you love. Whether that is. It doesn't matter if it's the most comfortable pajamas you own or a beautiful gown. Find clothing that makes you feel whatever you need, whether you need comfort, beauty, happiness, or badassery. Wear it because you love it. Wear it because it feels right. Especially if your taste is more odd than your employer's dress code allows.

Remember, friends, that once you're off the clock it's your body and your time, and you can deal with stress however you like.

Go out or stay in. Do something that you enjoy, rather than wallowing in being upset or feeling off about anything. Do something that makes you feel better, whatever that "better" may be.

If you're up for retail therapy, go shopping. Go to your favorite store, a new antique store, or just go grocery shopping. Hold your head up high and do what you love.

Take a walk in the park. Enjoy a walk by a riverfront, through beautiful flower gardens, under green trees, or between shadowed tombstones. Enjoy yourself.

If you're not planning on going out, then find something to do that you enjoy within the confines of your own home. Watch a movie. Settle down in your lovely clothing, get a glass of wine, tea, or whatever suits you best, and enjoy being. Personally, I like a glass of iced chai in a black goblet from Target that makes me feel like Lucretia Borgia.

Finally, remember that you deserve to feel however you want to feel. The world may not help you in feeling the way that you want to feel, but your clothing can. You can be whoever you want to be, if only for a short while.

Find your own happiness.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Where To Shop: Antique Stores

I'm going to say this flat out: antique stores are not for everyone.

There is a rather uncomfortable moment for most of us younger folks when walking into antique stores. It doesn't matter how well you are dressed or how classy you look, there are many shop owners who believe that if you are under the age of 40 and walking into an antique shop your primary goal is to streak greasy fingerprints across the beautiful items and smash the fragile ones. I find that this look is often the deciding factor on whether or not I return to a shop. Honestly, if the shop owners can't get over their age prejudice long enough to see that I am not rough with a single item, then I am more than willing to buy my teacups elsewhere, thank you very much! It's not every store, of course, but it happens in many a shop and it is uncomfortable every time.

But, once you've found an antique store where the atmosphere is welcoming and the stuff is interesting, go for it. Explore. Return again a month or so later to see what's new. Once you've found a store worth supporting, support it!

Shopping at antique stores can be like shopping at a thrift store but trickier and more expensive.

Price does not equal quality. Sometimes, the price gets hiked up simply because of the age of the item. Same deal: check the seams, check for stains, make sure it fits. With accessories, take the same care. You don't want to pay twenty dollars for an antique parasol that has a huge hole in it. You don't want to buy something with a funny smell hanging around it. Of course, if you truly want a holey parasol, that's your prerogative and I won't naysay you for your interest in the aesthetic of decay.

Don't be afraid to haggle. Don't, of course, do this in charity shops, but in for-profit stores like most antique stores, see if you can knock a couple of dollars off the price. Remember to be reasonable (half-price is not an acceptable offer unless there's something seriously wrong with it and the price does not reflect this) and you might get a better deal. I once got a mink coat for 15% off thanks to timing (a warm winter makes for a difficult to sell fur coat) and haggling. Go ahead and try it.

 If you're plus-sized, like I am, be realistic about what will and will not fit. Don't try it on if it's obviously too small, lest you break it and have to buy it. Be careful when you are trying things on.

 That said, antique stores are a wonderful place to shop, especially for accessories. Jewelry, bags, and random shawls and hats are everywhere. You can find them to match almost any style and you can find the absolute strangest pieces. Usually the weirdest pieces are the cheap ones because they're the hardest to sell. My favorite piece... ever... from an antique store is my lion necklace. I saw it and exclaimed, "It looks like a doorknocker!" And then I bought it for four dollars.

It is, I swear to you, much shinier than this picture would indicate, but the picture gives you a  good look at the details.
And if I can find something that fabulous at that reasonable of a price, you can, too.

Go forth and antique, friends. You never know what you'll find!