Style U to Style You: Accent, Accessorize, Adorn

I’ve been asked in the past, specifically and most recently by the immeasurably talented and increasingly stylish Annie Bacon, to impart some style tips upon my dozens! of readers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, trying to figure out what exactly I want to say about Style and how to impart my suggestions for dress.

The simplest outfits benefit from major bling. Your favorite jeans from high school (which you refuse to throw out because, hello, you've had them since HIGH SCHOOL) and your lover's ratty undershirt (that you wear because it smells like him) are suddenly smoking with select accessories. P.S. Doesn't that necklace remind you of Sasha Tierney's stuff? Also I love anything with scarab beetles.

Because one of the things that I knew I didn’t want to do in this blog was to post a bunch of DON’Ts.

One, I think that a great, key thing about fashion is that it is our visual and outward avenue for self-expression, and I just never want to be the person to say that x,y,z is an inappropriate or unattractive way to do that. I’ve got Liberté (French for “freedom”) tattooed across my hip so clearly personal liberty is big with me.

Two, the Internets are full of haters, and I would rather just stay out of that whole mess of vitriol, pleasethankyouandyou’rewelcomeokayiloveyoubyebye.

Three, rules are meant to be broken. So I can say “Oh khakis lack imagination and epitomize blah and boring and caution and Connecticut,” but then Michael Kors – with whom I really, really just want to have brunch, is that weird? – sends something like this down the runway and I’m all “Nevermind! I take it back!” and start scouring the Goodwills for a stain-free pair in my size and dreaming of that matching sweater.

No joke, I saved this image (months ago) as korsfa10theonlywaytomakekhakiscool.jpg

So, yeah.

My first suggestion for dress is simple: Accessorize!

Now, this may seem patently obvious, but throwing on a funky necklace can make the most casual, comfy, and lackluster of outfits seem chic. And on those days when you just don’t want to make an effort, your jewelry can elevate your look and make it seem, my dears, like you do give a damn.

This idea for jewelry display comes courtesy of Real Simple magazine. While awesome, you also can't go wrong with simple hooks or a checkerboard of nails in the wall. I love hooks.

Things to keep in mind:

  1. The whole process with be easier and faster, and you will wear more of your pieces with more frequency, if you have your jewelry and belts and so on out in the open. Put your bling on display. You’ll be more apt to remember it’s there, remember what you have, remember to put some on.
  2. Jewelry and other accessories don’t have to “match.” In fact, contrast is key to creating a dynamic look. Seriously, just grab the first necklace and/or earrings and rings you see and run with it. It’ll be fine. You’ll look great.
  3. Sometimes, more is more. Don’t be afraid to Go Big. That whole “before you leave the house, take a look in the mirror and remove one thing” rule? Kind of like white after Labor Day, or pantyhose, i.e. STUPID.
  4. Belts! They’re not just for holding your pants up. In fact, I’m pretty convinced they have naught to with that.
  5. Goodwill et al., Etsy.com, garage and estate sales, Cost Plus, and your mom are all wonderful sources of (often, very) cheap but quirky and unique pieces. Load up.
Cupcakes and Cashmere screwed decorative knobs into her bathroom wall. Google DIY jewelry display for a crapload more ideas.
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What’s the Point?

I love the idea of repurposing old clothes, knickknacks, belts, and so on and giving them new life: turning that maxi into a mini, morphing by mere placement that too-small belt into a suggestive leather necklace , making that single, once-favored earring into a now-favorite pendant.

But recently I’ve been marinating on ways to move beyond these simple changes. (mmm, mmm, mmm…)

A beanie and scarf woven from rubber bands

See, my friend Julia Campbell,1 a young and funny woman, an awesome artist studying at the University of Iowa, she posted the above photo on her facebook page a while back. Yes, that is a beanie and scarf made entirely from rubber bands. Yes, she admitted the beanie was quite uncomfortable to wear. Still though, doesn’t she look adorable in it?

Here, at least, wearability isn’t really the point. Créativité, passion, action: voila, les buts, n’est-ce pas?

I love the creativity it took to make this: to look at some everyday, useful item and see the possibility for some completely different something.  I think fashion is the perfect foray for these types of adventures.

And then Julia went ahead and fashioned a fancy raincoat from trashbags. I know this may not be an entirely new concept2–use what you’ve got, necessity’s a mother, yada yada–but I think sometimes, on a practical level, we see a pipe and all we think to is tobacco and smoke, whatever else Freud might say.

Overturn the dominent paradigm, stay dry in the rain.

And her trash bag slicker immediately made me think of this, which will be of course “worth” thousands of trash bags:

Michael Kors, Fall/Winter 2010

For my part, I have been building what I call the Island of Mismatched Earrings collar. I’ve been wanting one of those big ol’ “statement necklaces,” or bibs, or collars, or whatever the kids are calling these heavy duty décolletage decorators, dreaming of owning something like this or this or this. Only, you know, free and DIY. Because I am poor.

Apologies, apologies for the subpar picture quality; this pic was taken with my humble phone. Yes, that is a fuzzy blue statue of the Virgin Mary. What?

It’s still a work in progress, as I think it will only look better as it’s filled out with more and more widowed earrings. This will happen organically and eventually. I’m constantly losing earrings, even when I put on those little rubber backies. The base of the bib is a structured velvet belt that was just a tad too small to actually wear and still expect to breathe. So with some strategic pleats, and a few stitches to keep it secure, the once-belt-now-bib has a shape that rounds my shoulders and lies flat across my collar bone.

And I’m literally writing this post and Jezebel turns me on to this madness:

Dudes, this is a halter top made entirely out of tampons.

I’ll say again, it’s a halter top made entirely out of TAMPONS! Walter Raes is a British designer who creates crazy-sauce fashion out of household and industrial materials. According to his website, “he takes the disposable remnants of our everyday lives to create his brilliant pieces, explorations in form and function.” THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE.

Giddy Spinster Reclaimed Stiletto Planter and Succulent, $95

Giddy Spinster is based in Berkeley and uses used/upcycled stripper heels (let’s be honest) to make these rad planters that are “about hard-working women, the increasingly artificial nature of American femininity, and the impossible images that women face in our society.” Smart. And her bio leads me to believe we’ve got similar life philosophies and would probably have fun over drinks.

All this talk reminds me too of a particular YA book where, in one scene, the protagonist and a few side characters sewed dozens of Matchbox toy cars and Micro Machines onto a dress for some crazy assignment. Maybe one of the girls was studying fashion? If anyone can tell me the title, they’ll get 5 personalized haikus written by yours truly. Just leave your spot-on answer or nice-try guess in the comments.

Giddy Spinster Space Egg White Stiletto Succulent Planter, $79
  1. Admission: I know Julia because she was BFF with my kid sister when they were in like 2nd and 3rd grade. I would babysit the two of them. The fact that she, and my kid sis obvs, are old enough to be intelligent, dynamic women in their own right makes me feel kind of old. Hi Girls.
  2. After all, Project Runway’s MO is often “make clothes from shit that would never normally be used to make clothes.” But this is reality vs. Reality TV, which we all know are two very different things.;-)