Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Story of my Fur Coat

It was as if it was waiting for me.

I'd walked into one of the antique stores in my hometown, just hoping to find a vintage hat, a set of cameo jewelry, or a nice pair of clip-on earrings. I never expected to find a mink coat, golden brown and hung with little care on the end of an old bookshelf.

I also never expected that such a find would fit.

It's a capelike number, cozy and soft and warm and well-cared for. Even the lining, a rich golden brown that suited the fur beautifully, was unblemished. And it fit. Even so, I tried to talk myself out of it. I wandered the store for a good long while before I finally walked back. It was out of my price range, but I talked to the store owner who talked to the seller who agreed to give me a discount on the coat (it had been a warm winter, and furs don't sell like they used to). I walked home with it gingerly tucked in a paper bag, keeping it close to my chest.

I hadn't bothered to look at the tag until it was hanging from my bedroom door and I was imagining the outfits it would look best with.

The tag struck me, then: Hope Furs. St. Paul.

I was curious. It's the historian in me. Is the place still open? When was it opened? If it's closed, when? Could looking up the shop tell me how old the fur was? Could it tell me the why and when of this pretty thing I had just bought?

I looked it up and, after some searching, I found much more than a when; I found a who.

Eva Hope Miller. The name probably won't ring any bells. She died in 1994, when I was just five. But what a woman!

A woman who described herself as "a little go-go-go," according to her obituary, she'd developed an interest in furs when she was in her teens. She graduated from business school and began working as a bookkeeper at a furrier who she thought hired her to get rid of her. Then, in 1920s, she and her sister opened a fur shop.  Two women opened a fur shop. In the midst of the Great Depression. And it was a success. The shop was open until she clearanced the stock in 1952, after eighteen years of business, when her husband was diagnosed with cancer.

More than just a furrier, she was an incredible woman. She dated her husband for 23 years before marrying him because she was "too busy working to get married." She organized the first Christmas tree lighting in St. Paul. She helped create the first credit Blue Book. The governor proclaimed a day for her after she died.

She was a woman I wish I had known, and it was her shop that sold the fur coat that now waits in my closet for the next special occasion.

I like to think that my fur was part of the clearance stock. The story I tell myself is that it belonged to a woman who had yearned for a fur coat for years and had never been able to afford it until Hope Furs clearanced its stock, who cared for it for years until she passed it on to someone else, whereupon it changed hands several times before finding its way to a small town antique store and a young woman who cares for it very much.

I like to think that whoever bought this, like me, was unlikely to buy another fur anytime soon. I like to think that she cared for it, as nice as the coat is, for many years. I like to think that its over sixty year journey from a shop in St. Paul to my closet was filled with ups and downs, stories I will never know but may imagine.

But most of all, I like to think of the woman I stumbled upon when buying this fur, an incredible businesswoman and human being whose name rests on the tag of my fur coat.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Beyond the Pageboy: Retro Hairstyles For Short(ish) Haired Girls

About two weeks ago, the lovely lady who runs Les Fleurs Noires wrote a post about short hair and Lolita. She focused largely on accessorizing with short hair and styles to pair it with. And, in the spirit of sharing short hair style tips for the frilly among us, I thought I’d chip in with some of my favorite hairdo tutorials.

These focus on hair that is between chin length and shoulder length (sorry, pixie cut ladies, but I don't have personal experience with cuts that short and styling them!). It's also going to focus on retro hairstyles because, to be frank, I think retro hairstyles look adorable with Lolita and other frilly fashions.

Ribbon Braid Updo

Confession time: I pretty much lived in this hairstyle about a year ago. My hair had just about hit my shoulders and I knew not what to do with it. I also didn't have time (or money) to go out and get my hair chopped just because it was a little longer than I usually like it. Since then, I've decided that this is going to be my go-to for days when my hair is a touch too long and I just want it out of the way.

Then, I found this tutorial by way of Va Voom Vintage and absolutely loved it.

This hairstyle works well with a ribbon, a scarf, or even a random scrap of lace. One fun variation that looks great with natural kei or dolly kei inspired looks is this one from Megan Maude. With a thinner strip of lace and some smaller flowers, it looks quite nice with Lolita as well.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tales of Christmas: Lolita Outfits Inspired by Classic Holiday Stories

Christmastime!

I love Christmas. I love giving gifts and spending time with family. I love that it is a great excuse for making foodstuffs for friends and family, whether they celebrate the holiday or not. And, in many cases, I love the stories that go along with it.

So I decided to do a few outfits based on my favorite Christmas stories.

Toy Soldier


This outfit takes inspiration from two of the many things I have loved in my life: nutcrackers and marching band. The shako (the bucket-shaped hat often seen in a marching band setting) is a strange choice with lolita, but it works with the military styling of the outfit as a whole. I chose a shako with a gold eagle both because it reflects the tone of the gold buttons on the vest and because I like a good black and gold shako.

Any plaid skirt would work for this outfit, but I chose to use this Bodyline JSK both because of its inexpensive nature and because of the layering in the skirt. The three tiers break up the line of the skirt and mimic the peplum of the coat often seen on traditional nutcrackers.

I would also say curled hair (or a curly wig if that's your thing) are a must with this outfit to offset the vertical nature of the shako. Give it a bit of volume to balance out the skirt.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Inspiring Series: Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena)

Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena) is my favorite anime, bar none.

If you haven't seen it, you're totally missing out, and I could talk about the series for hours, but this blog is about fashion and not about fangirling. Most of the time. Sometimes they coincide. Right now is one of those cases, so I hope you will forgive me my fangirling moment.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Inspired Coords Part II: Non-Characters

Continued from last week's post, I have a third media-inspired coord type to show you.

Type 3: A non-character or setting

If you're doing this one, you clearly like a challenge.

This is, simply put, the hardest way you can take inspiration from media. Whether you take your inspiration from a culture or from a setting, you're taking a broader base of impression and trying to distill it into a single outfit. For example, while many people will say that the setting of a book “becomes a character,” you’ve got to admit that it’s hard to translate that setting into human form.

However, it can be done.

My favorite texts for this are works like Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente and Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Each of these offers dreamlike descriptions of places, not concrete but very vivid. They give a wealth of images, colors, and textures that can be translated easily to fabrics and jewelry.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Inspired Coords Part I: Characters

I'm back! After doing the play and having the kids ask me to come to their concerts the next week, I'm finally back on the blogging train. And all the costuming I've been doing has given me ideas.

Inspiration for Lolita coords comes from everywhere, but it can sometimes be hard to figure out how to take that inspiration and translate it into a completed coord. And, since I like a good challenge and am hot off the heels of taking a script and making written characters a reality, I'm going to take on media-inspired coords.

I'll be covering three different types of outfit inspiration over the course of two posts:
  1. Characters that are already visually represented
  2. Characters that are not visually represented
  3. Non-characters
The first two will be in this post, and the final type will be given its own post.

Let's get started, shall we?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Outfit of the Day: Happy Halloween!

So, I love Halloween.

This probably comes of no surprise to anybody, given my love of costuming. And this year, they encouraged folks at my office to dress up. Dangerous, that.

Because I wasn't feeling particularly spooky of face this year, and because I wanted very much to wear my new antlers from Mythical Designs, I decided to do a deer-inspired outfit. The main part of the outfit was the face. I used too-dark bronzer (also known as "bronzer" because of how pasty white I am) and cheap white face paint to make my cheeks tan and add some white spots to it. I would have painted my nose black to add some more deer-i-ness to it, but I ran out of time in the morning. What can you do?

Anyway, here's what I looked like from the neck up.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Close Encounters of the Frilled Kind: Well, That's a First!

Breaking hiatus to share a story with you guys.

I wear Lolita almost every Sunday. I attend church, and it gives me a good excuse to wear frills at least one day a week. So today I wore a black and gold skirt, lace top (which didn't match my outfit as well as I should like, but a subpar coordinate was fine by me when we needed to be out the door fast) and black shoes. My cousin, visiting for the weekend, wore the skirt I bought for her along with a lace blouse and earrings shaped like a rainbow-colored layer cake.

And now I'm kind of wishing that my coordinate had been better.

You see, after church we went to a local grocery store to pick up some supplies. As we got to the checkout, the young lady working the register smiled at us.

"I like your outfits!"
"Thanks," I replied.
"Lolita, right? I spotted you two across the store, and I love the prints."

I was floored. I have never had anybody know what I was wearing. Usually, people just call it retro and girly and leave it at that. I've been asked if I was going to a "German cultural festival." I've been asked if I was dressed up for a play. But coming across someone who actually knows what Lolita fashion is? Never.

So, yeah. That made my day and I had to share.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Outfit of the Day: Inspired by Dark Mori

Several weekends back, I was visiting family for their county fair. My cousins suggested that we go to Pioneer Village to explore, take a few pictures, and just generally have some fun. Of course, since I am me and the weekends are when I let loose with my clothing, I was dressed to the very strange nines. This time, it was black. All black. Lots of black.


I don’t usually wear much mori kei because of my body shape; curvy me plus flowing clothing can result in a frumpy rather than fairy-like appearance. However, this particular outfit isn't strictly mori kei, and, more importantly, it's much more comfortable than my usual frills. Therefore, it was perfect for bumming around a county fair. It was also perfect for climbing around in train cabooses, crouching down next to sod house windows, and running through the rain despite water-soaked shoes.

I'm sorry I didn't get any close-up pictures of the outfit, mostly because I spent much of the trip behind the camera. However, we did get a few good posing shots of me (though my legs do look a good deal shorter than they actually are). This is one of them.


Outfit Rundown:
Top: I got this as part of a mystery bag from GoodGoth a few years back, but the tag is missing.
Skirt: A gift from my friend Liz, tag also missing.
Vest: Handmade
Tights: Wal Mart
Shoes: Wal Mart
Hair Accessories: Claire's

These are fun, too. We got some creepy pics of me as the villain of our day's amorphous story (which, given that I was looking black-clad and witchy, wasn't an unfair read of the appearance), so this creepy pic of me staring through a window will have to do instead of outfit close up shots.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fashion and Costuming: A Blog Hiatus

I have exciting news! And by "exciting news," I mean, "Please forgive me because I won't be able to blog regularly for a while."

I’m volunteering as the costume manager for my old high school. I know the director, and so when she said that the fall play was Seussical and she needed behind-the-scenes help, I volunteered. Since I’m living with my parents just two blocks from the school, I’m an easy distance from the auditorium. And, because she knows me, I got roped into planning most of the costumes that won’t be rented and possibly a puppet or ten.

I’m so excited to do that, but it’s going to take a chunk out of my free time. For the next two months or so, I probably won’t be updating this blog. I’ll come back of course, but for a little while I need to put my energy into creating brightly colored outfits for the Whos and feathered tails for a flock of sassy birds. I might post an outfit shot or two, and I'll definitely be posting something about the costuming process when I'm done, but posts will be rare until after the show gets done.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ve got a lot of birds to feather and a lot of characters to bring to life.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Conversations in an Attempt to Figure Out What to Wear to a Wedding



I fear that my life among human beings has hit a slight snag. I have not one but two weddings to attend this fall. One is on Sunday and I am having a hard time navigating social norms in terms of dress while still being true to my personal style.

I have been to weddings, of course, but it's been years since I was at a wedding where I had any say in what I wore. The last two weddings I went to had dress code information given to me. I was to wear a bunad to one of them and a black dress to the other. As a result, I have no recent memory whatsoever of what is considered normal in these sorts of social occasions.

And, because I'm me, a strange thing happened, which is the same thing that normally happens when I try to talk about social norms. Suddenly, I start talking like I'm an alien anthropologist trying to decipher the strange rituals of a particular tribe of another species.
___________________________________________________________________

 Part the First: Contemporaries

Me: I am confused.
How does one clothe one's naked body in order to attend the hu-man* ritual called "wedding"?
College friend: Depends on the ritual. What type of hu-man are participating?
Me: The type of hu-man who are friends with one [name of groom] are participating in the ritual. Unfortunately, I possess only limited knowledge of the moral code known as "normal" in the Murrikan^ tribe of the hu-man species.
College friend: I suggest a kilt like apparatus so as to blend with the indigenous tribe, though camouflaging may be required so as to mask your operations of the ritual.
Me: I have heard that, in the Murrikan tribe, these garments are often decorated with images of the genitals of local plant life. Is this so?
College friend: I am unfamiliar with the exact practices of this tribe, but I believe this may be a good hypothesis.
Me: It would make sense, given that this "wedding," I am given to understand, is at least in part a fertility rite. Perhaps I shall test this hypothesis about the decoration of native Murrikan kilt-like garments.
___________________________________________________________________

Part the Second: Parental Beings

Me: I am confused. What does one clothe oneself with in order to attend the hu-man ritual called "wedding"?
Father: Nothing.
Me: We are not on Betazed. I fear that would be inappropriate in the Murrikan culture. 
___________________________________________________________________

Notes:
* Pronounced \‘hü-mȯn\ 
^ Pronounced \‘mər-i-kin\

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Toying with Dolly Kei: An Experimental Polyvore Post

I rather enjoy dolly kei. So, for this week's post, I decided to play around with dolly kei outfits on polyvore.

Even though I don't identify fully with dolly kei, I love experimenting with new styles. Polyvore is a great way to do that without spending a dime. Who knows; maybe I'll start incorporating more dolly kei influence into my outfits. For now though, this is just me playing around with the style.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Tale of the Ice Cream Skirt: or Why I Don't Care if My Cousin Becomes a Lolita


Last year, I purchased a lolita skirt for my cousin Megan.

Megan is not a lolita. Megan, however, has an abiding love for full skirts (which flatter her shape beautifully, I must note), pink, food in general, and desserts in particular. Sweet lolita offers, therefore, clothing which would combine all of those things in one frilly package.

This purchase of this skirt was the result of months of waiting for the skirt to go on sale and a fair bit of e-mailing back and forth with her sister to make sure the skirt was something that Megan would want and to make sure that I was getting the right skirt. Technically, the skirt was a graduation present, but Megan had a high-stress senior year, so I decided to give it to her when I visited for Christmas and give her the option of opening it whenever she wanted.

She loved it. I was pleased both with her affection for the skirt and how it fit her. I dedicated three separate blog posts to ideas for how she could wear it. One day, I would love to take her along to a lolita meet-up so she can get a taste for the style that birthed the craziness of the skirt, and I have been told that she would be interested in going to a meet.

But I don't care if my cousin becomes a lolita or even wears the skirt in anything resembling the lolita style.

That is not to say that I wouldn't love it if my cousin did become a lolita. I'd love to have another rufflebutt in the family, someone with whom I could go shopping for frilly girly things in stores and to whom I could send links to dresses I nerdgasmed over. I am very close to my cousins, especially Megan and her sisters, and it's a thrill whenever we find something new to share. However, I want them to be free to discover their loves on their own, just as I have discovered mine.

This is something I've often thought about when sharing my crazy clothing choices with friends or family. I'm not one of those people who tries to take ownership of what I wear, as if the style were mine and mine alone. However, neither am I the sort of person to push the people I care about into something that I enjoy simply because they might enjoy it, too.

I want the people around me to understand my craziness, but just as I want them to accept my strangeness I should accept theirs.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Styles to Seek: Dolly Kei

Oh, dolly kei. I love dolly kei. It's creepy and cute and weird and if you haven't heard of it then I'd like to introduce you to it.

Dolly kei (or dolly style/fashion) is a Japanese street fashion inspired by vintage, used clothes to create a design inspired by vintage and antique dolls, vintage and antique clothing, Grimm's fairy tales, the Victorian era, gypsies, romanticism, goth, and very old clothing styles from eastern Europe. The look overall is kind of creepy, cute, and usually fairly striking.

One thing that differentiates dolly kei from many other Japanese styles is the lack of distinct brands. In Japan, the store at the fore-front is obviously Grimore, a store that is the brain-child of Hitomi Nomura, but due to the use of vintage clothing there aren't really BRANDS. Yes, there are certainly brands that fit into the style, especially Grimoire and Grimoire Almadel's house brands (Dolly, Rathiel du Dolly, and Verum), but there isn't the same focus on the brand vision.

Another thing that I find fascinating about dolly kei is that it's not about rules; it's about vibe. It's about the feeling of stumbling out of the dark side of a fairy tale. As such, there are a lot of common elements but no rule that any of these elements have to be present. A few common elements of dolly kei are:
  • paisley
  • tapestry
  • embroidery
  • tights, boots, and platform sandals
  • layering
  • mixing patterns and colors
  • ethnic-looking pieces
  • vintage clothing
  • fur accessories
  • tassels and shawls with fringe
  • florals
  • defined waist
Dolly kei is also a bit difficult to define in words. It's much easier to show you. I'm using street snaps and a lot of pictures from the Grimoire blog and the blogs of the staff.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

True Lolita Life: My Only Brand Dress Was Purchased By Accident

Yeah, you read that right: my only brand dress was purchased by accident.

Story time!

I tend toward classic and gothic with my lolita wardrobe. I'm much more inclined to wear black, ivory, or brown than white. As such, most of the purchases I've made have been along those lines. I'm not big on pastels or even light colors unless I can easily temper them with something darker.

But then I saw a dress.

There was a girl doing a massive moving sale, and she had several very pretty floral JSKs. One of them was pink and pretty, a little old school, and much farther toward the sweet side of classic than I usually wear. She labeled it as "unknown brand" and it was under 100 dollars. But it struck me, and it struck me hard. Three rows of ruffles on the skirt, pin tucks, lace... I was in love. And, as luck would have it, the front and back shirring on the JSK left plenty of room for my sizable bust.

I altered the straps so that it flattered my shape better.
They attach with buttons in the back, so it can easily be undone.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Adventures as a Subculture of One: Being a Lone Lolita

Being a lone lolita. It's something I think most bloggers in the fashion have written about.

I was introduced to the fashion by a friend of mine back in 2002. However, after she wore it once for a party I never saw it again, and lolita's visibility in my small hometown was essentially back to zero. About seven years later I started wearing lolita myself, and it was a fascinating experience. I've slowly grown into the style and am only now beginning to participate in the community.

As a classic lolita, I was lucky. My style was, and still is, fairly low-key; I don't stand out as much as a girl in cotton candy colored pigtails will. Everyone who commented was kind. Older ladies told me that they loved my outfit and they had worn similar things when they were younger. Girls my own age told me they liked my shoes. Older gentlemen held doors open for me or tipped their hat when I passed.

Even so, I was the only one.

In some ways, I still am. I have only managed to make it to one meet up (curse my adult responsibilities). I don't have any lolita friends nearby. My main contact with the subculture is online, from reading the comments my dear readers post to chatting with people on the local comm's Facebook group. I am, for all intents and purposes, still a lone lolita.


There are, of course, a lot of disadvantages to being a lone lolita. You can feel disconnected from other people. Without feedback, it can be difficult to improve your coordination skills. You won't always have the support you need to try something a little more out there. Friends will sometimes feel uncomfortable with your fashion choices.

But there are a lot of good things about being a lone lolita, too.

My favorite part of being a lone lolita is that there are zero community expectations. When I walk around in my petticoats (or without because it's simply too hot...), there is no idea of what a lolita should be following me about. I can find my own style and my own code of behavior.

When you do want to join in the community, we live in the digital age! You can share your frills when you want to, talk to other girls who are in the same boat, or just enjoy chatting. I've had extended conversations with other girls in the local comm about food and history, and that was extremely enjoyable.

I also love the way that any direct interpersonal connection becomes very special when it is so rare. As previously mentioned, I keep handwritten notes from the indie designers whose clothing I purchase or from fellow lolitas whose secondhand clothing I buy. I keep these notes in the pages of a scrapbook, and each one is precious to me.

Another great thing is that being a lone lolita means that you are allowed to make mistakes in a safe space. There are no embarrassing pictures floating around unless you want there to be. You can also develop your own style by experimentation without fear of being judged if an experiment goes awry.

Not, of course, that I want to be a lone lolita forever. I would love it if there were more frilly girls nearby, people with whom I could share my hobby. But there are certain things that I do enjoy about being able to explore the style in my own way.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lessons From 4-H: The Most Important Part

I learned a lot of things from my time in 4-H. I discovered everything from tricks that help me overcome my fear of public speaking to a love of full-skirted frocks. It's hard to say what's the most important thing I've learned, but I can clearly say what the most important thing I learned from my time in fashion review was.

No matter what you're wearing, how it fits, how it looks, whether it's considered conventionally fashionable or not, there is one thing that makes any outfit:

Confidence.

I wasn't a brave kid by any stretch of the imagination and not comfortable in my own skin. Modeling clothing that I had made myself, and doing so on a stage in a public venue, was terrifying. But I did it. I had to learn confidence, but, by the end of my 4-H experience, I had learned to own every single item of clothing in my wardrobe. If I picked it, if I loved it, then I was going to wear it and hold my head up high.

You know that cheesy song from Annie, "You're Never Fully Dressed (Without a Smile)"? Well, as cheesy as it is, the song has a point: you are what makes the outfit.

When you love what you're wearing and are confident in it, you can pull off most anything.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lessons from 4-H: Cost Per Wear

Sometimes, even a lady has to do some math.
Yes, this involves math. I don't like math all, but I promise that this is worth it.

4-H is an organization that promotes many things, but one of the biggest things that it promotes is budgeting. Every project requires you to calculate how much you spent and how much use you are getting out of the money that you spent.

Lolita is a fashion of expensive items. All that fabric and lace, along with custom-printed designs, costs a fair bit of money. Even if you buy secondhand or stick to offbrand and handmade items, it's still going to cost money and/or construction time. There really isn't another way around it.

One of the ways that these two things collide and actually start to play nice with each other is when you calculate cost per wear. Cost per wear is required information where the 4-H Clothing and Textiles project area is concerned, and it's a relatively simple thing to figure out. To calculate it:

How Much I Spent on the Item ÷ How Many Times I Wore It = Cost Per Wear

See? Easy as that.

Once you've figured out cost per wear, you can figure out if the items in your closet are really pulling their weight. For example, if you paid full retail price for a brand lolita dress but then wore it a few times before letting it languish in your closet, you're not getting the most out of that dress. And, if you bought something offbrand for thirty dollars and never wore it, that's just as much of a waste of money even if it didn't cost much to begin with.

One easy way to keep track of cost per wear is by keeping a tally. If you've already done a wardrobe inventory, that's easy. Just tally the number of times you wear a thing on your inventory. Don't worry about messing up the work you did; it's your inventory and you can do what you want with it. This is extra easy if you've done your inventory on the computer in a spreadsheet. In fact, here's a bit from mine:

Item Brand New/Used Cost Times Worn CPW
High Waisted Black Skirt w/ Rose Print Bodyline New 53 35 1.51
Black Velveteen Skirt w/ Chandelier Embroidery HMHM Used 40 25 1.6
Black Royal Seal Skirt w/ Gold Screen Print Princess Pearl Used 35 28 1.25

I can't tell you, though, what cost per wear should be for you. My usual rule is that an item needs to be versatile enough that, within a year or two, I can bring CPW below five dollars for items purchased new and below two dollars for items purchased secondhand. I know that sounds like a pretty tall order, but it's well within my reach if I am careful about what I spend my money on.

Personally, I impulse buy more than I would like. Most of my impulse buys are tights and jewelry, but occasionally I will make an impulsive decision while browsing comm sales. Keeping cost per wear in mind keeps me from buying something I won't actually use.

So, why is all of this important?

Most of all, keeping track of cost per wear makes sure that you build your wardrobe with things you use. If you're thinking of purchases as an investment rather than as something you wear once then sell on comm sales, you are going to get a lot more out of your wardrobe. That is not to say that you can't or shouldn't resell; obviously, if an item doesn't fit, doesn't suit your style, or if you' have exhausted the item's possibilities, go ahead and sell it. But if you are thinking about each purchase in terms of its value to you, you'll get a lot more use out of your wardrobe as a whole.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lessons From 4-H: Make a Wardrobe Inventory

The lolita in me wails at the word "practicality." The 4-Her in me thinks it's only natural. I like to think I can reconcile the two.

When I say "practicality," I do not mean it in the way that most people think; "Oh, be practical, you couldn't possibly wear that" is not something I am going to say to you. I mean only this: when you buy something, make sure it is something you are actually going to use and that it versatile enough to work with several different outfits.

One of the things that is required when one participates in Fashion Review for 4-H is an in-depth analysis of where the outfit that you purchased fits into the wardrobe that you have and the life that you have. This very often includes making a wardrobe inventory. As my 1981 edition of the clothing project curriculum puts it:
What you decide to make or buy depends on what you need. Have you taken a good look at your clothing lately? With increasing clothing costs, having a well coordinated wardrobe with fewer items can be better than having many clothes that don't "work" together. So.... update your clothing inventory.
This is true of any fashion, but I'm going to use lolita as an example because that's where I seem to be headed with my wardrobe and with this blog.

Lolita seems to be one of those fashions that runs on impulse buys, on sudden and insurmountable lust for a single item that overtakes the young lady involved. It is a fashion of dream dresses and of dramatic comings and goings in terms of personal style. Sometimes, we jump in headfirst and end up with a single not-so-very versatile outfit that we wear once or twice but can't do much with until we expand our wardrobe.

But that doesn't mean it has to be.

If there is anything I learned from being in fashion review for 4-H, it is this: anything I buy should have at least two different uses in my wardrobe. Whether that is two different lolita outfits or one lolita outfit and one vintage-style outfit does not matter. What matters is that I can wear each piece

I'm all for the tried-and-true 4-H method of actually making a clothing inventory. Yes, going through your closet may seem intimidating at first (see the picture from Confessions of a Shopaholic above), but it's worth it. Whether you do this just with the clothing you wear for lolita or if you do it for everything you own, knowing what you have can be a great help in knowing what you need or want. It also gives you some time to sit down, go through everything, and weed out some of the items you don't want or need anymore.

So what do we put on our clothing inventory?

I, personally, put mine in a spreadsheet with a column for a basic item description, a column for brand, a column for how much it cost (if I know), and a column for whether I bought it new or used. You might decide you don't need that much information. You might just pull out a notebook and write down a basic item description for everything and be done with it. It's your wardrobe; it's your choice.

And, while you're making the list, keep in mind that you might not use some of the items. It's easier to recognize them when you're pulling everything out and looking at it.

While a clothing inventory may seem like a lot of work (and it is, when you start), it can definitely be helpful when it comes to managing a wardrobe.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lessons From 4-H: Introduction

Yes, you read that right. I'm doing a feature month on lessons I learned about clothing from participating in the 4-H program.

For those of you who don't know what 4-H is, the simplest definition I can give comes from Wikipedia:
4-H in the United States is a youth organization administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), with the mission of "engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development." The name represents four personal development areas of focus for the organization: head, heart, hands, and health. The organization has over 6.5 million members in the United States, from ages five to twenty-one, in approximately 90,000 clubs.
4-H was started in 1902 and was originally meant to introduce new agricultural technology to youth in rural areas. The intent was to encourage participants to "learn by doing," an idea that is still present in the organization to this day and is, in fact, the organization's slogan. One of the main ways that we "learn by doing" is 4-H projects that are judged and exhibited at the county fair.

Over the years, 4-H expanded its reach beyond its agricultural roots. Agriculture is still present, certainly, and most people who have had contact with the program know that one of the project areas is livestock. However, there are now literally hundreds of topics that project areas can explore including "Self-Determined," a catch-all for projects that do not fit into the other project areas.

So what does this have to do with clothing?

A lot more than you might think.

4-H has three projects under the "Clothing and Textiles" project area that are absolutely relevant to the alternative fashionista: clothes you make, clothes you buy, and fashion review. The point of the fashion-oriented projects is to help participants:
  • Discover their unique style
  • Discover what looks best on their body, how to make it or where to buy it, and how to care for it.
  • Express themselves through creating and planning an exciting wardrobe.
  • Develop skills to purchase and make clothing.
  • Learn how to use equipment to make and care for your clothes.
Essentially, the 4-H clothing projects are about self-expression through clothing and learning new skills of budgeting, coordination, and creation.

Clothes you make is exactly that: clothing you have created yourself. This is where young seamstresses discover how to make anything from a pair of elastic-waist shorts to a full suit. Clothing is judged on construction and, sometimes, whether or not the person doing the sewing challenged themselves.

Clothes you buy is actually much more difficult than it sounds. This project area involves not only buying a new outfit but establishing, either through a booklet or through some sort of visual aid, how the different pieces of that outfit fit into the existing wardrobe. This isn't a project area that's just about shopping. It's about estimating cost per wear, creating a workable wardrobe, and budgeting.

Fashion review is probably the trickiest area to figure out because it seems like it's the shallowest. Participants are judged based on how their outfit is coordinated, how well the outfit suits the wearer, and how well they model the outfit. Participants are judged privately and then model their outfit on stage at a later date. However, fashion review also requires a heck of a lot of confidence, which is more what it's about than the clothes themselves.

And, of course, I should explain where I fit into this craziness.

I was a 4-Her from first grade (the rule, at that time, was "first grade or age seven") through my freshman year of college, also known as "grade 13."  I spent thirteen years of my life working on 4-H projects and trying to "make the best better," as the motto goes. Many of those projects were part of the clothing and textiles project area.

I learned a lot about clothing through my time in 4-H and, since it's July and that means county fairs are popping up all over, I'm going to share some of that with you.

If you want to know more about 4-H, I'd recommend looking at their website, especially if you're young enough to participate yourself. I cannot say enough about how this organization helped me become the person I am today.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Clothing as Hobby: At What Point Does "Enough" Become "Too Much"?

A while back, I was talking to my cousin about how I like clothes. I like them as a means of creative expression, as a way to build my skills as a seamstress, as a way of bolstering confidence. Clothing is a hobby for me, both designing it and coordinating it, and I enjoy talking to her about it because she has a similarly artistic mind when it comes to clothing. But, at certain point in our conversation, she declared that clothes are fine as self-expression, "but everything in moderation."

This, of course, got me wondering: at what point does enjoying clothing go from something we praise to something that is to be condemned?

As girls, we are often taught to believe that there is a line between the girls who care about clothing and style and, well, "the rest of us." The media tells us we are supposed to think long and hard about clothes, to be stylish, to be fashionable and pretty. The media also tells us that the girls who do this are shallow creatures, unable to see past the veneer of fashion and popularity. It's a serious mixed message.

Is there a line between fashionable girls and the rest of us? I don't think so.

I am more than how I dress, but how I dress is an extension of myself. As long as we do not reduce ourselves or others to that single facet, I don't think there is anything particularly bad about enjoying clothing, fashion, or makeup.

Can there be a point where enjoying clothing becomes too much? Well, there are points where anyone can have too much stuff or be spending too much money. You can go beyond your means. But gaining enjoyment from clothing, using it as creative outlet? I don't think so.

Be you. Like what you like.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

...or not

Kazumi Hyguchi.
Photographer: Rebecca Magdalena.
No reason. Just wanted a picture and it's pretty.
There will be no excited meetup post this weekend, unfortunately. A sudden conflict came up.

Great, right?

Seriously, universe. I prepped an outfit. I re-fluffed my petticoat. For the love of all that is frilly, I baked cookies when I could have been working on projects for the county fair.

And yet here I am. Unable to go because of a last minute schedule change.

Hopefully I'll be able to clear my schedule for the next meet because I really really really want to meet the girls from the state comm. Finally. After a few years of wearing lolita.

But today is not that day.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dabbling in Boystyle: A Thrift-Store Sourced Floordinate

This is going to be a quick update without much depth because I'm prepping for my first ever meet this weekend. Look out, MN Rufflebutts, because I'm taking my nerdiness north to meet you (and will probably be making a big ol' personal post to match)!

Anyway, boystyle.

I haven't really done all that much with boystyle, so  I decided after my recent secondhand splurges that I should try it out. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of this while it was actually on my body. Ah, well. Here's a shot of the whole outfit (which looks much less rectangular when it's actually on my body.



Thursday, June 13, 2013

This Was Way Harder Than It Should Have Been: My Lolita Playlist

Oh, the lolita playlist... meme... thing. It's about time I got into this.

This took me a lot longer than it probably should have because my lolita music is hard to divide from my music in general. As a result, the first things I think of when I think "lolita music" are the music that I listen to while wearing lolita, things like symphonic metal and psychedelic rock covers of Scots folk ballads. Which are... well, not lolita. At all. Unless your definition of lolita involves large, viking-like men shredding their electric guitars and bands with unpronounceable names.

Come to think of it, that would be kind of hilarious.

In the end, I was able to find music that I loved that actually felt like it matched my wardrobe. I went with the pieces of music that I would choose as a soundtrack to a wardrobe video if I ever made one.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pattern Roundup: Sailor Lolita For The Seamstress.

The temperatures are starting to rise, and that means one thing: sailor lolita is going to be on the rise, too.

I love sailor lolita as a substyle. It's just so darn cute. If you're not as familiar with it, though, here are a couple of super cute pictures. If you are (as I assume most of us are if we've been involved with lolita for a while), hey, pretty pictures!

I've been trying to find a source for this. If you know a source, please tell me.
That said, she has an aircraft carrier on her head.

Paper Sails shows us how it's done
(Check out this video. Not just for full citation, but because it's super cute)

Anyway, back to topic.

Most brands have released something that fits in with the sailor theme in one way or another. Bodyline has released sailor dresses. Innocent World has released sailor dresses. Most brands have released something. However, if you don't fit into brand, can't afford it, or are trying to make some of your own lolita, it can be difficult to find dresses appropriate for the sailor substyle.

But never fear! Bookish Beauty is run by a pattern-mad crafter who is happy to share her information with you.

Because most of these patterns focus on sailor collars, I'm keeping this list down to two categories: dresses (or patterns that can easily be made into dresses... you'll see what I mean) and tops. Sailor-style details on skirts can range from trims and anchor buttons to fabric choice, which makes sailor-style skirts much easier to make. But dresses and tops? That's where it helps to have a source.

There are many patterns you won't find on this list. They might be vintage that is difficult to find or difficult to find in a variety of sizes. They might be sailor-ish but not distinct enough to be recognizable as sailor unless you squint and make sure to make them in navy blue.

I'm focusing on patterns that will work for many sizes, are fairly easily found, and are recognizable as sailor style with little-to-no modificiation other than perhaps a skirt swap.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

International Lolita Day: Summer 2013

Woo, International Lolita Day!

This is another Lolita Day where I am not able to actually participate in the festivities, unfortunately. Last year, I was attending a play with a friend of mine and did, in fact, wear lolita, but the day was too busy with the already planned socialization to add a meet to the roster.

This year, I'm missing the festivities because the boyfriendthing is visiting.

Ah, well. I can dress in frills anyway, right?

So this is what I wore, more or less. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of my outfit yesterday and most of it went into the wash last night, so here's a Polyvore approximation!

Strawberries and Straw Hats
Strawberries and Straw Hats

So that's what I wore. To a picnic with the boyfriend.

I hope everybody had a wonderful International Lolita Day. Maybe next time I'll have pictures from a meetup to show you.