Archive for ‘Do It Yourself’

October 5, 2013

THE White Dress – Epilogue




Looking back at old posts recently I realized we are coming up on our first anniversary and I never did finish up my dress odyssey.   So here is how the story ended, or at least what came right before “and they lived happily ever after”. 

My final wedding look ended up being a collection of fortuitous “make it work” moments from a blend of talented helpers, my own editing skills and just pure luck.  As some may recall, unlike most brides who start by actually trying on a sample dress and then trying on veils, shoes, etc.  to go with the dress,  I had a dress made for me based on my own sketch, so bringing all of the elements together required some vision.  Little did I know just how much!  

Shelly, my designer, started with the bodice since we knew that getting the fit right would be tricky.  It took weeks, but it was perfect – just the right amount of detail, good fit, and the corseted design flattered my Rubenesque body.   While she worked on the dress, I ordered my tiara, made my veil myself (easy peasy), did my hair and make up trials, got my shoes and figured out jewelry.  Since the dress was to be the focal point, I was keeping the other accessories simple and classic. 

Heading into August everything was right on track.  Then, as Shelly draped the skirt, she becamed concerned, and before she got too far along she did a quick pin and baste up for me to try.  When I came to that fitting I was bubbling with excitement – things were coming together.  But Shelly was quiet, practically holding her breath waiting to see what I thought.  I put the dress on and there was a long silence in the fitting room. 

I could immediately see what she was struggling with – it simply wasn’t right.   Despite the fact that the design was made up of elements I knew worked on me, when we put it all together the overall effect was awful.  The proportions were off, somehow making me look even bigger and more ungainly than usual!  I was on the brink of tears, but I didn’t want to hurt Shelly’s feelings.  This was more about my body than her effort.  It just didn’t work.  Oh. My. Gosh.  It was the beginning of September – we had seven weeks until the wedding!!  

After the initial shock I pulled myself together – I took a big step back and tried to be rational and objective.  What could I do?   There wasn’t time to buy anything else.   We needed to make this work.   Forget my original dreams.  Forget fabulous.  Forget special.  I just needed to create something that I would not cringe about when I looked at pictures.  Shelly and I dissected what we had and discussed options.  We had some good elements that we could work with.  As for the rest, we agreed we just needed to rethink. 

Step one – simplify the top.  I had wanted a shrug or sleeves to cover up my ham-like upper arms, but everything we tried made me look squatter.  So we opted for an off-the-shoulder detail in organza – it still showed my beefy arms, but at least it broke up the vast expanse of pudgy shoulder and framed the décolletage (a bonus if you ask Mr. Commando).  Step two – redo the skirt.  Plain it looked horribly drab so we knew it needed something and after some playing about we settled on asymmetrical tiers for visual interest while avoiding having horizontal lines.  

Traumatized, I went to the next fitting in dread.  And my fears were realized when I found myself in a dress with puffy sleeves and tiers in a frilly lettuce edge which, paired with the tiara and veil, created a complete Princess look worthy of Disney.  This would have been great on someone 25, but on someone 45 it was utterly ridiculous.   I was appalled, it was soooo not me.   Shelly quickly grasped my concerns and we de-puffed and cut off the frilly finish – hmm….better.  Not wonderful but…fine.  Pragmatically I decided it would have to do. 

Thoroughly demoralized, I thought about what I could do to save this and came to the conclusion that I would use the same approach that I use for everyday.  I decied to make up for a lack of truly designer plus size clothing and my less-than-fashionable body with good styling and fabulous designer accessories.  I started a shopping frenzy to replace my understated accessories with some really posh goodies.  For jewelry I chose my Tiffany diamond heart pendant my beloved gave me and added a beautiful and dramatic pair of earrings and bracelet of delicate porcelain flowers from MaapStudio, a designer on Etsy; then I snagged a pearl encrusted heart clutch at BHDLN, and treated myself to the coolest sparkly Mary Janes in champagne from Miu Miu.  Now *that* was more like it!


But the veil had to go.  At my second to last fitting we tried a myriad of options with no awesome results.  Shelly sent me home with some stuff to play with including a beautiful handmade silk flower and a mini veil of French net.  When I got home that night there was a package from my mother-in-law-to-be.  It contained a beautiful vintage brooch – a bumble bee of topaz with jeweled wings.  It was an exquisite family heirloom with a wonderful story behind it;  I was so touched and charmed, here was the perfect something old!  And then an inspiration hit me.  Playing with the brooch and the flower, and the veiling I created a sort of hat – it was quirky and a little cool.  I took a quick pic and sent it to my wedding planner.  She LOVED it.  Then I called my hairdresser, Liz and she had me come in for a quick check – she came up with a nifty asymmetrical ‘do to work with it.  Problem solved!  And with only one week to go!!!!

When it was all put together, along with simply stunning make up from artist cum magician Jessica, the final result looked pretty good.  Of course everyone said I was beautiful, but then they have to say that, it’s a rule.  The pictures don’t make me cringe and as a bonus I came in WAY under budget for dress, jewelry, etc.  Best of all, I captured what I was going for – timeless, elegant, with just a touch of quirky and  I managed to achieve my dream of having an original and fashion-forward look top to bottom.  In fact, since the dress was created from individual layers of candlelight and blush, my wedding dress was truly a unique color and wasn’t even white.  No, my white dress was actually PINK!

brideCredits: Photos by Chard Photography, Hair – Liz Ward and Jenn Smit, Vogue Salon, Make Up – Jessica at Flawless Faces

September 22, 2013

Creating a Flap…per!!!!

I recently got a chance to really stretch my creative muscles and it felt sooooo goooood! My favorite restaurateur, Bonnie, celebrated her birthday with a fabulous bash at her restaurant – Harlow’s in San Juan Capistrano.   The theme, Great Gatsby, was both totally on-trend and befit the gorgeous vintage vibe of Harlow’s, better yet – the invite said 1920’s dress encouraged – time to dress up! 

Chatting with Bonnie a few weeks before the party I got the dish on the look she was considering for herself – beaded flapper dress, feathers, the works.  This girl always looks simply gorgeous and she had several options in her wardrobe so I was expecting amazing.  As we chatted I mentioned I have a snazzy Louise Green 20’s inspired cloche and she made me promise to wear it.     

I instantly knew the look I was going for –  luxe and sophisticated 1920’s – think Lady Mary ala Downtown Abbey rather than full-on flapper.  My cloche is a daytime hat, but it is a rich brown and with the right clothes it could work for cocktail hour.  I started pondering my closet for an eveningy ensemble to wear with the hat and got royally stumped.  I have plenty of daytime options but not a single thing that would really be right for evening. 

Scouring my online sources yielded absolutely nothing.  Then I thought “well maybe I need to go black and get a NEW hat”.   (I am always ready for a new hat.)   However, after a few more scans the only dress I found was ridiculously expensive, and I would still need to get the hat and probably shoes so it was just too extravagant, even for me.  

What to do?  I was running out of time, contemplating not dressing up and doodling on a note pad as I pondered my options.   When I looked down at the simple shift dress I had sketched an idea bloomed – why not MAKE a dress?!  A few more sketches, some measurements, and I had my concept – a simple shift with slight sleeves, a dropped waist and knee length skirt but jazzed up with some sparkle and shine.  But, it still seemed a bit drab.  Then I thought “feathers!!!” and sketched in a feathered skirt.   

At the fabric store I hunted for the right materials, pulling together feathers, trim and fabrics.  I found absolutely perfect trim – black with brown embroidery and bright crystals right off the bat, and found several good options on fabric, but came up with only one not-quite-the-right brown feather boa – rats!!!  I needed eight boas to make a skirt, and without the feathers the dress was going to be beyond dowdy.  I headed to a craft store where I found, miracles of miracles, a huge pile of boas in a mixed cream and brown –and since apparently no one else has found a use for mottled natural colored boas they were even on sale – bingo! 

I set aside a weekend for my sewing project.  Pattern and muslin making took a morning and by then end of first day I had the dress fitted, zipper in, and sleeves done.  Then I spent the whole of Sunday on feather boa manipulation and hand sewing.  By the end of the weekend I was tired, my workspace was covered in feathers, but I was very very satisfied with my creation.

The final outfit came together perfectly; the color palette and every element from hat to dress to accessories worked seamlessly together.  I had snagged one of the solid brown boas to actually use as a boa, and added a pair of Mary Janes in a burgundy metallic patent from my own closet – period style, dressy and not too matchy-matchy.  My recently purchased Givenchy jewelry in bronze metal and rose crystals lent the right sparkly touches with long necklaces and a bold cuff.  Even my haircut was just right, conveniently, a swingy bob.  Best of all – that fabulous darned hat with its feisty feathers and band– LOVE!

The party was a blast – a restored Model T graced the front entrance for photo ops, there was a casino with proceeds benefiting the Marconi Foundation for Kids, and lots of folks joined in the fun of dressing up, dancing and celebrating.  While I didn’t manage to get Mr. Commando in an era-appropriate outfit, he looked good and I did get him to join me on the red carpet for a snap.  Bonnie and I had a big laugh when we saw each other and realized we had both ended up wearing dark brown.  She couldn’t believe I had made my dress and kept showing it off (so sweet).  I got tons of complements that night and the final fun came just a few nights ago – we were at Harlow’s for a casual dinner when the GM came up and asked if I had noticed that my picture, hat and all, is now on the restaurant’s “wall of fame” – how fun is that?!


June 29, 2011

Do It Yourself – Working It!

Sometimes I have in my minds eye what I want, but just can’t find it so in frustration I make it.  Sewing, beading, knitting, embroidery…I have tried it all.  Some of these frustration driven creations have been less than successful and never see the light of day.  But others work.  Or, in this case, go to work. 

Like many other folks, I work in a company that requires you carry an id badge when you are in the offices.  Adorned with a simply horrible picture of me that is now ten years old, I really hate this hunk of plastic.  As it is also a key card, allowing access in and out of secured areas and our parking lots, it has to be moved up to a lock with some frequency, so for many years I ended up carrying it rather than wearing it.  Yes, rather maddeningly, I did tend to misplace the darned thing, but I didn’t have to actually wear it. 

Until recently.  Now we have moved to a new building with added security and we must wear our badges.  We are provided with two ways to attach this albatross to our persons – with a clip or on a lanyard.  For men the clip is handy, it comes with a little spring loaded extension gadget so they clip it to their belt loop and then extend it to easily badge in and out.  Pretty nerdy, but these guys are mostly engineers so I suspect this actually ups the cool factor for them.  Now while the clip gadget is functional, I personally always struggle with where to clip it.  My wardrobe is a bit short on belt loops.  With a prominent chest to begin with, I am certainly not inclined to attach my badge anywhere above my waist – no point in further attracting attention with a big piece of white plastic.  And I find if I clip it to the hem of my jacket or top it tends to get knocked off and I don’t notice.  Leading me to find myself unable to get into the lab or to the indignity of someone finding it and the inevitable quip about how young I was, what color my hair was at the time, etc etc…blah blah blah.  The alternative lanyard is a wide nylon strap in bright blue or black  emblazoned with the company logo, or our latest company motto – uuuggggly.  But that isn’t the worst of it, no the worst part is that the length of the lanyard positions my badge so it appears to be hanging directly off the widest point of my chest.  Soooooo not fabulous.  No no no.    

Granted this is hardly an epic concern, but there are days when I have put some effort into a gorgeous ensemble and slapping this eyesore on over the top is deflating to say the least.  One day in frustration, I clipped my badge to a long necklace I happened to be wearing and tah dah! a fashionable alternative was born.  It worked like a charm and was far more aesthetically pleasing than a nylon strap.  Buoyed by this simple solution I evaluated what else my jewelry box had to offer.  Sadly, there weren’t as many possibilities as I had hoped.  Some trial and error and several broken necklaces later I determined that my desire for a lanyard that was somewhat narrow or low profile to complement or blend with an outfit was not lending itself to the level of sturdiness required.  A perusal of the costume jewelry section of some local shops showed that this would be a recurring theme. 

Well, if I couldn’t buy what I wanted then I would just have to make it.  Off I headed to the local craft emporium.  I bought some good quality glass beads that were relatively small and of a nice quality and then selected some heavy duty beading filament that looked, and has since proven to be, nearly indestructible.   I started with shiny black glass, and wanting it to have a bit of personality I picked two sizes of beads that I alternated, and ended with a single drop, creating a Y-shaped necklace.  My first attempt was not bad at all – the badge is positioned exactly where I need it, the black is basic so works with many outfits and the design resulted in a necklace I could tuck under collars or layer under other necklaces without it looking odd.  All in all, while the alternating beads and Y-shape made it look vaguely like a crucifix, it was otherwise not bad at all.

Finding the black didn’t work with every outfit I expanded on my first success.  Mining through my old costume jewelry (including some victims of the first necklace trials) I eventually cobbled together quite a collection of suitable beads ripe for repurposing.  A second visit to the bead shop filled in the bits and I now have a little wardrobe.  My go to basics are the black and a strand of silver and clear beads, but I also have made a deep purple and olive green that works with quite a few of my fall looks, and a white, aqua and green number for my spring looks. 

While hardly ground-breaking fashion, my lanyards are certainly an improvement over the nylon thingy.  And yes, I am well aware this sort of OCD behavior is what takes me from the fashion-conscious, to the fashion-obsessed.  But they do look nice and I have received quite a few complements on them.  And by cleaning out my old jewelry I cleared space and recycled some stuff that would otherwise languish in my jewelry box or find its way to Goodwill.  Best of all, I haven’t lost my darned badge in months!   See, pretty AND practical, what’s not to like?!

%d bloggers like this: