Wednesday, November 23, 2011

From Old to New and Summer to Winter

First of all, my apologies for skipping a couple of my regular blog days. Hopefully, I can pack this blog with enough information to make it worth the wait. So, as we begin the holidays I want to help you shop your closet for old, new outfits to wear to the multitude of gatherings that are about to fill your calendar and help you decide what pieces you may want to pick up on Black Friday to spice up and existing ensemble. I have been making mental notes the last couple of months over some simple wardrobe transitions into fall and winter using existing pieces from your closet. I am listing several examples, not to be redundant or narcissistic, but from having a non-visualizing husband, I have learned the more examples the more likely to relate ideas from my artsy, imaginative mind to a practical application for someone else. 

Let’s begin with a few summer dresses. From left to right I have a boutique dress, a Target dress, a dress from about 1998, and a homemade dress (one you may also have made if you have been following my blog). There is enough variety that you should be able to relate. Notice the similarities first. They are all summer dresses, light weight fabrics, and non-season specific colors. The last point is the most important! Whether you are shopping for a piece to achieve maximum wear for your money or sorting through your closet for a summer piece to transition to winter think about the versatility of the color. 

Also, when shopping, consider whether it is a staple or a trend piece? Examples of a staple are that basic black dress or perfect fit trench coat that you wear holes in before it goes out of style. Do not feel bad about spending a little more on a quality want it to last. Trends can be any number of things from how we wear something to the piece itself...skinny jeans, tall boots over the pants, belts, scarves, feathers in our hair, etc... This is not where you want to dump your money.

I bet you additionally have a few of these fall/winter time pieces in your closet too. 

Now let’s look at the different dresses (and a few more) one by one. 

The flesh-tone boutique dress. 

The flirty ruffles and sheer fabric at first look would appear impossible to lend to cozy cold weather apparel, but add a darker-colored blazer for seasonability and contrast, a trendy pop of color in a winter-weight scarf, tights that mimic your blazer color and low topped boots and you have a very equestrian inspired ensemble. I want to make a note about the low boots. I chose a low boot because I am short. The length and width of this dress are not particularly flattering to my frame. Since I liked the dress so much I chose to purchase it and accessorize it to create a flattering silhouette. By choosing a short topped (these are actually my design) high heeled boot. I could create a vertical thread between the hem and my feet. Pumps would work just as well. The boots serve a second purpose too. Because there is horizontal space between my lower calf and the boot top it creates the illusion that my legs are thinner than they actually are. With the help of the dark colored tight this also makes them appear longer. Allowing the scarf ends to hang in line with my legs brings head to toe elongation to a dress that can easily appear very wide. This is a great polished look for many occasions. Belting at the waist over the jacket is another option. 

The striped, A-line, short Target dress 

Again we are dealing with a flared bottom. But this one is bias cut so it hangs a little less rigid and more flattering to the body. Similarly to the first set of images I have added a color-pop loose-ended scarf, tights that match the jacket, and wide topped boots. Though it is hard to tell in the picture the jacket is double breasted with banded ribbing at the hem. What I chose not to do is leave the jacket completely open. Buttoning the solid fabric over the stripes helps notate the location of my waist and creates some distance to my feet. This is a very comfy option for an errand-running look. These are one of the few flats I wear (one of my favorite winter staples). I love them and I will get them re-soled until they completely fall apart. 

The 1990’s short green dress 

If you have not grown height-wise in the last 10 years you have a few old dresses in your closet. I found this one in my closet at my parent’s house this summer. It still fits, it is still flattering, just not particularly trending at the moment. But, some of the asymmetric cut-out’s of the 90’s resemble the same seam angles of the current color-blocking designs. Additionally, the diagonal neckline aides in confusing the eye to bounce around the outfit and creates a slimming effect to what could easily become a very harsh, wide horizontal line across the shoulders. Whether you have wide or narrow shoulders this combination will work. The combination of the sweater neckline, dress neckline, tie at the waist, and the repetitive continuity of the colors above and below the waist allow the outfit to form curves while slenderizing. Stay away from pairing a bulky, nearly off-the-shoulder sweater with a boat neck top if you do not want your shoulders to appear wider. This is a super look for a casual holiday party. 

The homemade t-shirt maxi 
If you do not remember this dress scroll back through some of my “wearable fashion” posts from the summer. I walk you through creating a pattern and construction. I would assume that many of you have more than one maxi dress in your closet considering they have been in vogue for a few years. I have noticed this look continuously creeping into the various fashion magazines and really all it consists of are a couple items you already have in your closet. Select a comfy sweater in the same color family as the print of your straight maxi dress. Important: a straight maxi dress paired with a moderately tailored (and not overly long) sweater achieves the best results. You can make this ensemble as warm as you would like by adding a heavier sweater and tights beneath. Considering these photos were all shot out-of-town (in very warm 80 degree November SW Oklahoma) with a limited number of pieces I tossed in a suitcase the shoes are negotiable. I am not one for flats that are not tennis-shoes or my treasured mukluks so the ballet flats shown are actually some old costume shoes. However, if I owned a pair of ballet flats they would pair nicely with this outfit. Whatever shoe choice you make this is not the time for statement shoes. The idea is elongating the body with the clothing not distracting the focus to your shoes. This is perfect airport attire for your holiday travels, layered, comfortable, and cute. 

Here are a few extra ideas for pieces you probably already have. 

Animal prints 
To my dismay animal prints have clawed their way back to another season. This is another old dress from about the 2002 era (when I was really wild about animal print). With the resurgence of knee-length (and below) pencil silhouettes, thanks to “Mad Men” and “Pan-Am” and undying leopard prints this dress is totally recyclable. Pairing it with a long, solid dark brown wrap sweater, dark brown leggings and dark brown boots keeps the look modern and inhibits the animal print from taking over the apparel. Keeping the pieces (aside from the animal print) the same color will keep the look from appearing too loud. 

Speaking of loud...the bright orange tweed suit! 

The designs come and go, but you can always find some form of tweed suiting. If you do not have an old tweed suit check the back of your mom/mother-in-law’s closets...and they are pretty prevalent in thrift stores too. As we know gold and coppery tones have been making a come-back and these old suits already have the gold buttons attached. Turn up the sleeves and belt it for a current look. I wanted to show that you do not have to be across the board trendy to dabble in some new looks. This is very fitting for an older crowd. You do not have to do the skinny jeans and just move the belt from the loops to the waist over the jacket. Simple, minor changes that rock trends without appearing like you robbed your daughter or granddaughter’s closet. 

The 4 years ago retro smock 

This piece was on my garage sale chopping block this summer. It feels a little maternity...tailored at the top and loose over the tummy. But I found that little glimmer of life left in it when I unbuttoned the top and let it fall to a more natural position. I then belted it in place and it added some nice monotone texture. A contrasting belt cinches the waist and the matching boots complete the outfit. This is always my general fall back look, I love black. Which makes my wardrobe really easy to work with. 

Alright, last looks and switching to white. 

This is another look that can work for different age groups. The first sweater style may jive better with a slightly older crowd and the second young adult to middle age. All of the pieces you see below are all separates, including the fur collar. The fur collars are easy to find. If you do not have grandma’s somewhere stashed away in a dress-up drawer from childhood check your local thrift or antique stores. Pin it to your favorite long sweater, preferably your long sweater that just happens to be the same color as the fur and the dress. Belt below the sweater for a defined waist, but less trendy look. 

For a fun’s back to the back of the closet or the thrift store. Yes, at one time this faux fur vest had zip-off sleeves. If the vest has a rib-knit band like this one you may feel more comfortable folding it under...out of sight....and pinning it. Layer the ensemble the same as above but without the fur collar and place belt over the top layer. Puff the chest area out of the vest above the belt to an even width with the peplum. You do not want the top to be stuck down tight to your chest and the bottom creating unnaturally large hips. Skins are huge this season so toss a piece into your wardrobe like this snake skin belt below. 

And I will wrap this closet shopping spree with an outfit I find most comfortable. Choose a head-to-toe, form-fitting solid color with high contrast to your oversized vest. I tend to trend hipsy, so the oversized vest in a lighter color helps slim my lower half. If you are uncomfortable in spandex denim works too. 

Most importantly seek out trends you can incorporate into your wardrobe and still retain a sense of self. Self confidence makes an outfit a hit or a costume. 

In the spirit of thanksgiving I have a few thank you’s to mention. 

I would like to thank my Mom for helping me with the pictures for this post. It is so much easier and beneficial when I can bring you real examples from my own closet without attempting self-portraits or dressing dress forms. 

My next shout-out goes to Jeremiah at Maaco on the Broadway extension in Oklahoma City. He was so gracious toward my helplessness in replacing my taillight. He was helpful, quick and even shared a remedy for removing pet hair from my car seats. Great people...go see them for your car service needs! 

And, of course, I am thankful for all of you that I am able to share my ideas. This blog brings me no gain other than a creative outlet. I love your comments and messages that let me know someone finds them useful.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Serve Mixed Drinks - Bartender not included

I don’t know about you, but hiring someone to bar-tend a party is an added expense that I think I can do without. Not that it is not a good idea and a nice addition to a "grown-up" party, but when you are hosting things on a smaller scale and want to give your guests a cocktail selection without having to mix it themselves this is a pretty good repurposed idea. 

I removed the labels (with alcohol or “Goo Gone”) and sterilized used Bertolli spaghetti sauce jars. I would venture to say most households have at least one bottled product they use on a regular basis. Contemplate the glass jars you throw out...or hopefully recycle. I began saving the spaghetti jars because they were aesthetically pleasing and a convenient size for leftovers. 

Find one or more cocktail recipes that you can mix a few hours in advance of your party. I would post the mojito recipe we used, me you would not want it. Regardless, of the concoction the container idea was worth posting. Print, by hand or by printer, the name of the cocktail on a small square of paper covered with a piece of clear packing tape. Then add your labeled cocktail jars in with the wine or beer bottles chilling in your ice tubs. This saves you from bringing out drink dispensers that you would not want to place a label, cluttering your refrigerator with pitchers, or you or your guests bar-tending the party.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Polka Dot Cake Decorating

This idea was born purely out of having no idea how I was going to decorate this cake, a complete lack of time, and the fact that I had already sent my husband to the grocery store. 

Every time I change regular buttercream over to chocolate butter cream it changes the density just enough to become difficult to work with. Therefore, I had used my spare decorating time just trying to execute the seemingly easy step of icing the cake. I needed something else at the store that I had managed to also run out of time to pick up so my husband was headed out the door for a different set of items when I said just pick up some Oreo’s too. I had remembered seeing a cute polka dot cake earlier in the week and I knew my mind was on to something that I would work out as soon as I had the Oreo’s in hand. 

Ice any cake with any flavor icing you like. Smooth the icing flat with a hand-held icing spatula. I used a chocolate buttercream icing to top this white cake with peanut butter nougat filling. 

Once you have iced your cake consider the flavors in your cake, filling, and icing before choosing the flavor of Oreo or like sandwich cookie. Remove the wafers from the filling of the cookie. Dust off as many of the crumbs from the filling as you can. 

Firmly place the filling centers in a controlled random pattern. 

Continue pressing the filling centers into the icing until covering the cake. 

Voila! A very fun decorated cake without rolling or cutting any fondant. 

Save your Oreo wafers to make cheesecake or pie crusts later!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Repurpose Squeeze Jars Into Cake Tools

I wanted to bring you some less conventional, but time-saving kitchen ideas leading up to the largest entertaining season of the year. I mentioned in the last post planning dishes ahead. Cakes can also be made in advance...weeks in advance if you freeze and wrap them properly. Once you are ready to position the layers back into a cake this post will hopefully aide in your process. 

Does this squeeze bottle look familiar? A Miracle Whip light squeeze bottle, perhaps?

But this is not Miracle Whip because it is peanut butter nougat filling...if your Miracle Whip is confusable with nougat it might be time to thoroughly clean your container and use it for a cake tool too.  

The nougat was much too sticky to smooth on the cake with a spatula alone so I created a way to make my nougat spreading a little easier. 

Squeeze the nougat or other filling of our choice onto each layer of the cake. 

Situate one cake layer on top of each nougat covered layer until re-stacking the cake. Voila! A quick filling method with less mess. 

Stay tuned for the next post...a delightful, clever cake decorating idea.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Making Dishes in Advance

It has been a really overwhelming week! I knew that it would be so I tried to make some dishes in advance. Instead of simply labeling the dish before freezing, I realized if I additionally placed the baking instructions on the description it would save me time from the need of hunting down recipes when the time came to pop them in the oven. Another thing I like to do with left-overs is make a note of the calories and serving size before freezing them for a later meal. With Thanksgiving approaching I thought this would be a good tip to share as I am sure all you organized little bakers out there will be planning your holiday meal in advance...