Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Professor's Homework Assignment: Tiki Time

She said "Dog Days of Summer" & I said "Welcome to my cabana!" The Professor brought back her homework assignments by asking us to recall our summer days & how we cope with the heat. Well, my husband & I turned our lifeless little backyard into a tiki oasis over the past couple years.

Tiki bar with a few of my favorite repro cups.
You can see how we did it in this article on Offbeat Home, because that's where I got the idea originally. We used a temporary carport structure to provide shade & then decked it out with rugs, furniture, a bar, & tropical decor. Over the past two years, & especially this spring, we've upgraded & fully decorated to achieve our dream of a Hawaiian- / Jamaican-inspired touch of paradise hidden away in Silicon Valley. I bought a ton of themed crap on eBay & Amazon, plus we found things at the local hardware store. I sewed pillow covers & crafted floral touches. And those neighborhood cats have made the cabana their home, which we don't really mind.

Last year, we started hosting Tiki Thursdays & have continued this year. Basically, one Thursday evening every month during the warm season, we invite friends to come over after work for fruity rum drinks & snacks out in the cabana. Just a chance to chill & socialize. It's been a lot of fun!

My husband & I also grill dinner every so often in the cabana for ourselves & even for friends. Last year, we had a Fourth of July BBQ, & we were all surprised to find out that the street behind ours was having a block party with HUGE fireworks (which are usually illegal here). So we got quite a nice show. And we pulled out a couple of our own sparklers too, bought out of state (don't worry, we used them in the driveway, nowhere near vegetation :-).

The cabana with tiki torches lit.
A sparkler on Independence Day 2013.
So that's my favorite way to deal with the dog days of summer, at least at home. How about you? Join in with your homework assignment or share in the comments below!

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Visiting Cats

While my house is currently cat-less, we do have feline visitors. For most of the time we've lived here, our backyard has been adopted by the neighborhood cats. Probably because our cats have always been indoor-only. Well, there are two cats who  particularly enjoy hanging out in our backyard -- this black tomcat who actually lives across the street and is called Negrito, and his girlfriend, a Siamese.

The girlcat is a bit skittish and runs away when I bring out the tripod to take my blog photos, but recently Negrito has tried to photo-bomb me. So this morning, I let him get into the picture. You can't tell, but he's pretty scruffy from his wild outdoor life, especially since he gets into a lot of fights. He's sweet to people but not other cats.

We're waiting until after a few short trips away before we get our "real" cats for indoors. We want kittens again, so we'll have a good long time with the cats. So hopefully this fall. A house without cats or any pets isn't really a home.

What I'm wearing: Grey & white striped hooded sweater, Forever 21 | Black T-shirt, Target | Black & white stripe maxi skirt, Nordstrom | Silver-grey wedges, Anne Klein | Silver fishes necklace, Ann d'Aboise | Pewter key earrings, made by me

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sewing Your Own Gothic Clothing

Because I sew big, crazy historical costumes, people often think I sew my own clothing. Sure, I can, but I don't like to. I have in the past, but these days, I prefer to save my minimal sewing time, energy, & budget for only those costumes. That said, I have some tips for those who want to get started sewing their own gothic clothes or just adding goth details to clothing.

Never sewn a stitch? Instructables to the rescue. Start with this step-by-step how to sew tutorial. This page guides you through the basics of hand-sewing. CraftStylish also has a useful primer to get to know your hand-sewing needles.

Sewing Projects to Get You Started
With basic sewing skills, you can start gothing up your wardrobe making over existing garments, either old things in your wardrobe or garments you find at thrift stores. Some projects to star with:
Some of these updates will be easier with a sewing machine. If you've never bought one, read through this detailed sewing machine shopper's guide written by a very experienced friend of mine. That should help you ask the right questions at the store.

If you want to learn to sew clothes from scratch, SewMarm's YouTube channel has some handy tips on everything from inserting the bobbin on a sewing machine to making a 1920s-inspired dress in one hour. The ThreadBanger YouTube channel has lots of fun & relatively easy tutorials for clothes, costumes, & craft projects to inspire you.

Sewing Goth Clothes on a Budget
Sewing doesn't require a huge, up-front investment, although it's easy to go nuts at a fabric store. One way to save your budget is by looking for fabric at thrift-stores. I love using sheets, tablecloths, and curtains as material because you get a huge piece of great yardage on the cheap. You may find lush, heavy fabrics this way.

At the fabric store, always wait for sales. And make sure to go to every fabric store in your area and get on their mailing list. Really, this is the number one way to get fancy fabric less expensively. You'll get flyers in the mail or get emails notifying you of sales early, and usually you'll get coupons. Some stores even have special 'early bird' or 'preferred customer' sales. For example, Jo-Ann Fabrics (in the U.S.) sends out sale coupons by print & email most every week for 40% off. Local, non-chain stores may also have sale lists & coupons, so don't ignore them.

Likewise, stores frequently put commercial patterns on sale for 99 cents each (especially at Jo-Anns). That's when you buy patterns! Look through the costume sections for ruffled blouses & corseted garments, especially if those styles aren't currently "in" & that's what you want to sew.

Basic garment shapes like straight or full skirts, simple dresses, tunics, and shirts can be made in exotic fabrics like velvet and silk or in Halloween-print cottons (those printed quilting cottons are super easy to sew and very durable to wear). Or make them in dark colors and add fancy trims like lace, velvet ribbons, and vintage buttons. Just a tiny bit of design can go a long way to creating a custom wardrobe.  Search thrift stores, Michaels, eBay, and Etsy for crafty and vintage supplies to jazz up your garments.

Give it a shot, and share your project ideas in the comments!

What I'm wearing: Black T-shirt, Old Navy | Black & white spiderweb-print skirt, made by me from a Halloween tablecloth | Black elastic belt, NY & Company | Black tights, Calvin Klein | Black kitten-heel pumps, Aldo | Silver, black, & rhinestone choker, random accessory store | Silver  hoop earrings, random accessory store

Monday, July 21, 2014

Memories of Summer on the Copacabana

The citizens of Rio use the beach as their living room. Teens and young people sit and stroll, chatting, flirting, drinking, smoking. They clearly own the place and since the beaches are public, they literally do.

Women are dressed in as little as possible here, which is very little indeed. Perhaps it's only the prevailing Catholicism that keeps the beaches from being universally topless. Only recently was one local beach allowed to be nude. Everywhere else, women strut around in bikinis. All Brazilian women -- young, old, large, small, tan, pale -- uniformly wear two-pieces. Often quite small ones, regardless of proportion. Only a few matronly tourist women wear the over-modest one-piece.

Brazilian women are divas, one and all, and they display the most amazing comfort in their own skins. Body confidence is not just for the skinny girls -- the bigger the body, the smaller the bikini, and the bigger the attitude.

It is totally refreshing and unlike American beaches where thin women look down their noses at the plus-size gals, who cower under cover-ups. In Rio, bellies may protrude from bikinis and older bosoms sag in skimpy tops, right alongside the curvaceous bombshells, skinny-twig teens, and topless toddlers. All the gals act proud of who they are and what they look like. You won't find a local lady under 40 in a maillot, and everyone sheds her sarong or shorts as soon as she hits the sand.

--excerpted from Smile, You're in Rio

What I'm wearing:
Burgundy peplum sweater, Anthropologie | Black & white floral print T-shirt, Old Navy | Black skirt, NY & Company | Black studded belt, Macy's | Black slingback pumps, Payless Shoe Source | Silver chunky bead necklace, Target | Silver  hoop earrings, random accessory store

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Five: Gender Roles

1. How are you stereotypically female?
I love girly shoes, makeup, & fashion in general. Boy clothes are so boring these days!

2. How are you stereotypically male?
I'm freakishly independent, I don't take shit, I laugh loudly, I don't keep my opinions to myself, I yell at the TV. I'm not very good at being a "good girl."

3. What parts of you do you consider unclassifiable as either gender?
Intelligence, creativity.

4. Do you think you are primarily male, female, or neither in characteristics?
I consider myself balanced. Outwardly female, inwardly unclassifiable, but I guess basically female because that's what I know best.

5. If you could be born as any gender, knowing the gender prejudices as they are now, which would you choose to be?
Not sure I'd want to be a man. I think it would be weird to be the oppressor. Strange responsibility there. But I'd like to be able to pee standing up sometimes, especially when camping or traveling!

Questions culled from The Friday Five on LiveJournal.

What I'm wearing: Black pinstripe dress, made by Donna | Black & pink stripe sweater, Macy's | Black shadow stripe tights, unknown brand | Black pumps with buckles, Kenneth Cole | Black with pink crystal earrings, random accessory store | Silver & pink crystal necklace, gift from Mom

Monday, July 14, 2014

CorpGoth Mid-Month Status Report: Summer With eShakti

This month's "Summer in the Office" theme is the perfect opportunity to showcase this dress I got from eShakti. Full disclosure: The company actually offered me a freebie here & gave me a choice of products from its site, but I was not required to say anything specific about the product. I received the dress back in May & didn't get to blogging it now from a combination of my schedule & the right weather for this summer-y dress.

I've heard of eShakti long before -- in fact, one of my best friends is a big fan & always sends me links & coupons. I've pinned dresses to my CorpGoth board, but just hadn't bought yet. Well, I'm glad I got this dress, & I'm sure I'll buy a few on my own now! I went for the custom-fit option, which is quite nice because that means the bust, waist, & length are precisely my petite-plus size, something I struggle to find in stores.

For summer, this is a classic little black dress. It's a cotton poplin fabric with a touch of stretch, very comfortable & easy to wear (& hopefully easy to care for too). Garment construction appears well done with good finishes & a smooth working zipper. I found the wide neckline of this dress quite flattering. Being a PerkyGoth, I had to go for that touch of pink. Oh & the dress has pockets in the full skirt, super convenient!

But my office is freezing in summer due to the massive air-conditioning. Thus, I have to wear jackets & sweaters every day. With this dress, I added a lacey jacket that echos the vintage style.

What I'm wearing: Black summer dress with pink piping, eShakti | Black lace jacket, Macy's | Black lace tights, Target | Black two-strap pumps, Bandolino | Black bat necklace, Walgreens | Black with pink crystal Victorian-style earrings, random accessory store

How do you deal with summer in the office? Share your posts in the comments below!


Friday, July 11, 2014

New Shoes, New Glasses

After a long delay on my part, I finally got new glasses. I love the frames, they're more of the cat-eye shape that had for years (before my last frames broke *sniff*). The optometrist I see is in the mall, where I had a little time to kill...

And I found these shoes. Oh my, it was love at first sight! I had to buy them. The shoes are by one of my favorite brands -- Aerosoles makes "comfort shoes," so some of their designs are boring & conservative, but don't throw out the baby with the bathwater, as the saying goes. If you look closely, you'll find some classic styles, some shoes with a retro vibe, & then gorgeous designs like these. Plus, they're all made in long-lasting materials with comfort as a high priority. Clark's is a similar brand that I love for the same reasons.

What I'm wearing: Black three-quarter sleeve jacket with piped seams, Speigel | Purple T-shirt, Limited | Grey striped skirt, Nordstrom | Black tights, Calvin Klein | Purple suede pumps, Aerosoles | Purple chunky crystal necklace, gift from a friend | Purple & pearl bat earrings, Jewels by Olivia