Posts tagged with: fashion

Flummoxed By Fashion

denim horrorI recently received a catalog from a favorite women’s retailer. It was their offerings for fall and, I’ll admit, I usually love to see what they are pushing for the upcoming season. I have, over the years, spent thousands of dollars on clothes with this retailer. I have bought many things (including envy-inspiring jackets, Joan!) at this store. I depend on them to have fun casual clothes and also clothes I can wear to work and to writing conferences where I want to present a professional appearance.

craft suppliesApparently, when the designers were working on the fall collection, they got together and smoked a whole lot of recreational drugs first. Then they took huge bags of clothes gathered from thrift stores all over the world, dating mostly from the 1980’s but also from the early 90’s. They dumped the clothes in a huge pile, got out their Fiskars, and cut pieces and parts from random items, then sewed them together in a hodgepodge manner and broke out the sequins, gemstones, fringe and hot glue guns. The result? A fall collection of fashions so baffling that I am still moaning and shaking my head.

lace bomber1. A lace bomber jacket – I love a bomber (or aviator) jacket more than anyone. I own a gorgeous brown leather one I bought in 1991 that I still get compliments on every time I wear it. The one in this collection, however, is made of navy blue polyester lace. Yes, lace, with big old air holes across its entire surface. It also has a big silver zipper up the front and wide elastic bands at the cuff and bottom. What is the point of a “jacket” made of lace, first of all, and who would be tempted to wear such a concoction? And where would you wear it?!?

sequinned denim vest2. Sequined, acid-washed denim vest – I have had denim, lots of denim in my lifetime. I spent all of the 80’s and the early 90’s in acid-washed denim and, I’ll admit, I loved it. I had jeans, jackets, miniskirts. I never owned a denim vest, but if I had found a really cute one, I would have worn it. I have worn embroidered and decorated denim in moderation. I have never worn sequinned denim. Denim = casual. Sequins = formal. What do you get when you combine the two? A hot mess, in my opinion! This vest also has seams that run along the breastline (pretty common for denim), except this one has a zipper on the left seam. Yes, a zipper. Why add a zipper? I have no clue. Denim! Sequins! Useless zipper!

shiny sweat pants3. Shiny sweat pants – Now, they don’t call these “sweat pants.” They call them a “Soft Matte Shine Pant,” which means nothing. They are baggy, have those awkward front pockets that are located near the side leg seam and have a wide band of elastic gathering the ankles. But they are shiny and a grey/silver color. They are also paired with the lace bomber jacket and a t-shirt awash in silver studs. And strappy silver stilettos. These are sweat pants, friends, but apparently they are dressy sweat pants. Honestly, I have no idea what these would be suitable for. They don’t look great even on the super-skinny model, so I can only imagine how they would look at the grocery store or block party on a normal woman who could lose a few pounds. WHY?

pinstripe jacket4. Pinstripe boyfriend jacket with bejeweled cuffs – Okay, this is actually a terrific-looking jacket, except that it has three-quarter length sleeves, which I despise. Long, clean lines, sharply cut lapels and it comes at least mid-thigh on a tall woman. But…they took the cuffs on those unfortunate three-quarter length sleeves and they embellished them with “stones.” Yes, those fake gemstones in varying sizes. They are all clear (thank goodness), but still. The entire cuff, all the way around. Plus, this jacket says it is machine washable. Have you ever washed anything bedazzled with fake gemstones? Invariably, a percentage ends up popping off, never to be retrieved or reglued. This jacket needed no embellishment. It would only work on someone tall and thin, in any case, but without the fake gemstones I would have been tempted. Not now. Why embellish something that needs no embellishment? And again, where would you wear it? Too casual for formal, too formal for casual. I am baffled. And guess what? I searched their website for this jacket? Nowhere to be found! (gimme a suspenseful “meow-meow-meow…”)

shimmer jeggingsI won’t even begin a diatribe on shimmer jeggings, although those are in this catalog too. Along with a very loosely-crocheted mid-thigh sweater shawl with feathery bits hanging, inexplicably, from the hem. And black polyester skinny pants with a three-inch zipper at the ankle.

Perhaps they thought to appeal to a younger demographic? Or that women don’t actually need to dress professionally anymore? I have no idea. But whatever they passed out at the committee meeting where this line was approved, I want some. It must be gooood stuff. I can only hope that, for spring, they lay off the peyote and create something I could actually consider purchasing and wearing.

So…have you witnessed any unfortunate fashion trends lately? Been converted to something you thought you despised (like shimmer jeggings)? Been unable to find a favorite you’ve searched for because no one makes it anymore? Please share your fashion adventures! I’ll be over here searching for that pinstripe jacket. Maybe I could pry off all the fake gemstones…

What Do You Wear?

Tan BootsOne of the reasons I love Fall is that the winter fashions are advertised everywhere.  Boots, gloves, jaunty little hats, sweaters.  And coats — coats of all kinds.  Sleek long wool coats, leather jackets, puffy down jackets and raincoats, all accompanied by bright scarves.  Don’t forget the boots — ankle boots, thigh high zippered boots, knee boots.  And don’t get me started on the leggings!

Even in high school, I loved winter clothing.  The standard high school issue was penny loafers and knee socks, wool skirts with stitched-down pleats from the waist to hip and sweaters — vee-necked, turtle necked, sweater vests.  And layers, lots and lots of layers, although, of course, it was all about the combined look rather than the peeling off of layers.

I still enjoy perusing the fashion catalogues and magazines to discover what’s the latest “in” fashion, but I’ve come to a recent discovery about  lovely, sleek pictures and the trendy, eye-catching fall and winter ensembles.bigstock-Winter-Close-up-Portrait-Of-Bl-54112433

You can only wear them in New England!  Well, that might be an exaggeration.  Winter storms occur in Utah, where I went to college, and in Idaho, where I first taught school.  Maine, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Wyoming.  Yes, plenty of states where there’s zero or near-zero temperatures.

But those pictures I see in the catalogues?  Those are New Yorkers.  NY fashion designers dressing their models in layers and layers of gorgeous wools and silks, tweeds and fleece and knits.

And you’d better be five feet ten inches tall and weigh no more than 100 pounds if you’re going to successfully wear those heavy layers of fabrics.

bigstock-Pair-Of-Teenage-Girls-Jogging--5041114For decades I resisted the reality.  Here in northern California where I live, winter means — wait for it — RAIN.  Not snow or sleet or even just a really chilly 25 degree weather.  RAIN, relentless and a major PITA.  I mourn those days in Idaho when I couldn’t start my car and walked to school, heavily draped in my beautiful black wool coat and knee boots, gloves and a scarf.  I didn’t think about shoveling snow off the sidewalk.  I didn’t care about slick roads and stalled cars.  And although I wasn’t five feet ten inches tall, I was the young, slim and sexy teacher.

I have two coats in my closet now.  A light-weight black jacket and a jean jacket.  For dress-up I wear slacks and a sweater in the winter, slacks and a light blouse in cool months; jeans and a sweat shirt or jeans and a cotton shirt. 

B – O – R – I – N – G!

Executing fashion at my age has become a chore rather than a pleasure.bigstock-Beautiful-Brunette-In-A-Plaid--2694225

But, damn, I still love flipping through the winter fashion magazines.  Even if I do wonder who’s wearing them and where are they being worn!

What about you?  What’s your favorite fashion season?  Are you a sleeveless shirts and shorts girl?  Or do you, like me, revel in the classy look of winter fashions?  Are you an evening gal or a surf and turf kind of person?  What are your go-to outfits?  


A special announcement of the release of my second Hitman Series, novella “The Hitman’s Heart.”  Available December 20.

A Question of Morality

A friend recently sent some beautiful pictures of Regency dresses.  Take a look – aren’t these lovely?  The one on the left is from 1805.  The white wedding dress on the left is from 1804.  

However I look at these low necklines and I wonder how those ladies managed not to fall out of the dress?  Did they not lift their arms?  How did they manage those little hops in so many country dances?  It’s like a wardrobe malfunction just waiting to happen.

My friend and Regency romance author, Susan Gee Heino, who is also a talented seamtress assures me that, as one who has worn regency fashions, such things did in fact occur.  The occasional glimpse of a nipple would not be as profoundly embarrassing as it is today.  Raising one’s skirts to show an ankle, however – scandalous!

By the end of the nineteenth century, showing one’s ankles was not quite as shocking, especially as more and more women took to riding a bicycle (though that activity was still frowned upon).  Of course, any ankles flashed at that time in the course of a game of lawn tennis or a ride on a bicycle were still well covered by opaque stockings.  Naked legs and ankles in public was simply not done.

Somewhere along the middle of the nineteenth century, women were allowed to publicly enjoy “swimming” though it would be difficult to imagine anyone actually being able to do more than stand in the combination of flesh concealing skirts and leggings that constituted a swimming costume.  By the end of the century, that changed as well.  One can see bare legs and arms, though the women were often hidden by “bathing machines” – big boxes on wheels that were pulled into the water so the bathers could dip in the water in private (obviously, as per this french postcard, there were voyeurs that hoped to catch a peek at the bathing beauties).

Fashions made drastic changes in the twentieth century and questions of morality weren’t far behind.  Flappers from the 1920s were looked down upon, though I’m not sure if it was due to their bobbed hair or short skirts.  Most likely it was the result of their independent attitudes, but their unique fashions helped push along the discussion of immoral versus moral attire.

Hemlines on skirts continually rose throughout the twentieth century.  I recall the days of the miniskirt and hot pants.  Interestingly enough, in those years, wearing thin barely-there stockings on one’s legs was de rigueur.  Not wearing stockings, or nylons, was scandalous.

While Janet Jackson’s famous 2004 Superbowl wardrobe malfunction brought numerous cries as to the country’s declining morality, I have to wonder if that’s so very different from the occasional “slippage” experienced by those Regency ladies.  It’s worth noting that the huge $500,000 fine levied against  CBS for airing the malfunction was set aside by courts this past November 2011.  

Can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow night :-).

In the spirit of what is old is new again, thought I’d add this image of a 4th century mosiac in what must be a precursor of a bikini.  The image doesn’t show that she’s wearing a crown and carrying a symbol of athletic prowness.

So what about you?  Any thoughts of what was once considered immoral and now is accepted?  Any expectations about the Superbowl tomorrow night?  I’ll send a copy of Redeeming the Rogue to someone leaving a comment.

Oh – and by the way – I think my bandita booty prize post from the taverns & pubs post was up for maybe ten minutes last night :-).  Gena Robertson – please check the booty chest for the announcement and instruction on how to claim your prize.





Vicarious Competence, or Things I Can’t Do

posted by Nancy
Today Barbara Monajem joins us to celebrate the release of her second book, Tastes of Love and Evil.

One of the cool things about writing books is making your characters do things you can’t. In my first paranormal romance, Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil, the heroine is a landscaper. The only things I can grow successfully are grass (by not mowing it) and wisteria (which is actually a demon in disguise and needs no help at all). It was fun writing about someone who could not only garden, but conquer. 🙂
For my new release, Tastes of Love & Evil, I chose another skill I don’t have: costume and fabric design and construction. Oh, I can sew reasonably well – I made clothing for my daughters when they were young, and some of the dresses were pretty cute – but as for coming out with anything elaborate or original… in my dreams. Or stories! Rose Fairburn, the vampire heroine, designs and constructs all kinds of cool costumes, and in Tastes, she’s in the process of finishing and delivering an Elizabethan gown to her customer. The costume is based on the one Elizabeth I wears in this picture.

Isn’t it scrumptious? I can’t imagine even beginning to construct something like this! Fortunately, Rose can, and does. She also designs and makes her own gorgeous, artsy fabric. My inspiration for Rose’s fabric was the work of Australian artist Dale Rollerson. I first saw Ms. Rollerson’s work in an issue of Quilting Arts magazine. These photos show the fabric I found so inspiring. You can see more examples of her fabulous artwork in her gallery at The Thread Studio.

I couldn’t resist trying something of the sort myself. (One would think, by now, that I would know better, but… sigh.) Just so you know how far I got with trying to make fabric myself (you can start laughing now), the article in Quilting Arts mentions using water-soluble stabilizer while constructing your fabric. Afterward, it washes right out.

I went to a Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store and bought myself a yard of it. I couldn’t find the stiff kind Ms. Rollerson recommended, so I got whatever they had, which had a consistency somewhat like interfacing and would (I guess) need a hoop. (I have hoops from back in the days when I did a lot of cross-stitch.)

Anyway, I held it in my hot little hands while looking at yarn. By the time I got to the register, the part touching my hand already had a hole in it. I now had proof positive of how well this stuff disintegrates. I brought it home and put it away someplace. I have a feeling if I look for it now, I won’t find it. My house is so humid it has probably evaporated long since. Rose, of course, knows how to buy, hold, store, and use it perfectly.

Here’s an excerpt from Tastes of Love and Evil. Jack, the hero (a sort of human chameleon, by the way – no, he doesn’t look like a lizard; actually, he’s cute in an unobtrusive sort of way, and he can literally fade into the background), has just been shot by some bad guys, and although Rose doesn’t know him (she thinks of him as some random man), she’s given him her hotel room key so he can take refuge. But the bad guys are posing as feds, and they’re searching the hotel.

The room was empty.

No, it just appeared to be. “I told you there was no one here.” Her nostrils quivering, every sense alert, Rose scanned the bed, the curtains, the embroidered mantle draped on a chair, the Elizabethan gown on the luggage cart. “Now get out of my room!”

The gunman ignored her, ducking in and out of the bathroom, glancing into the closet, going efficiently through every hiding place. Warmer, cried Rose’s senses, warmer, warmer, damn, oh God please no, as he shoved past the luggage cart to the window, and then as he returned, colder, warmer, colder, where the hell is the man? One-handed, the fake fed lifted the mattress and box spring, but no one was concealed underneath.

Sirens cried in the distance, and a second later the gunman’s phone squawked a warning. He left without looking back.

Rose retrieved her breakfast, double-locked the door, and scanned the room. Aha. She’d seen this phenomenon once before. She knew Random Man was in the room, somewhere near the window. “They’ve gone,” she said softly. “You can come out now. You need to have that wound tended.”

Nothing. Where was he?

“I brought coffee and doughnuts.” She put the food on the table. “I’d be happy to share, once we’ve patched you up.” Pause. “I know you’re here. I can hear you breathing.”


“I can smell you,” Rose said, her voice rising, tendrils of allure escaping. You and your blood. “I’m here to help, you fool!”

Still nothing. Or maybe…a faint shimmer, like heat rising in summer air, over on the luggage cart, right by the Elizabethan gown. Damn it, thought Rose. If he stains that costume… Anger coupled with the aroma of blood overwhelmed her senses, and her fangs slotted down. Purposely this time, she directed her allure toward the luggage cart. Another shimmer, instantly controlled, and then absolute stillness.

No more pussyfooting around. She smiled and sent a wave of allure crashing across the room. Random Man resolved into view, gold and tan and brown blending with the dress, then gradually reacquiring his own muted shape and colors, blue denims and Saints jacket, nondescript but definitely all there.

“God help me,” Random Man said. “Not another vamp.”

For more about Barbara and her books, check out her website.

Which skill or talent do you wish you had? What have you tried and failed at? (Or succeeded at, of course.:))

One lucky commenter will receive a signed copy of Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil.

I Must Confess

by Beth Andrews

I love fashion. I love reading fashion magazines, watching TV shows about fashion such as Project Runway and What Not To Wear, I even love to sew. While I don’t consider myself particularly fashionable or stylish, I have learned over the years what looks good on me (boot leg jeans) and what to avoid at all costs (pencil skirts and wide leg capris).

However, when I came across this list of The Best of the Worst Fashion Fads, I realized how far astray my fashion sense has roamed over my lifetime. So, in an effort to clear my conscience, I give you the list of The Best of the Worst Fashion Fads along with my delcaration of guilt (or innocence) about each offense.

1. Mega Shoulder Pads — Innocent! Thank goodness I never aspired to look like an NFL linebacker (although the women of Dynasty seemed to love ’em).

2. Ponchos – Guilty. The first time (or at least, the first time I remember) ponchos were popular was the mid 70’s and I happily wore the colorful knit poncho my mom had made me. The second coming of ponchos was just a few short years ago and while my older daughter avoided them like the plague, my younger one (then in preschool) had one and even though I know ponchos are just plain wrong, she looked darn cute in hers 🙂

3. Spandex Pants – Innocent. Me + Spandex = Scary. ‘Nough said.

4. Midi Skirts – Innocent. Mostly because these were before my time *g*

5. Big Hair – Guilty (and proud of it *g*) I can’t think of anyone (other than my mother who has had the same hairstyle forever) who didn’t have big hair in the 80’s (my sister’s hair was shorter but still seemed to take up more space. That girl had BIG HAIR)

6. Stirrup Pants – Guilty. Yep, I had some stirrup pants, I think I even had a pair of stirrup jeans and yes, I believe I even wore them with flats. For those poor pants that didn’t have stirrups already sewn onto them, I had the elastic clips that attached to the hem to keep my pants inside my boots (I had some really great boots in the 80’s)

7. Visible Thong – Innocent. And really, REALLY glad of it 🙂

8. Mullet – (sigh) Guilty. I had one for about a year while I waited for the sides of my hair to grow out.

9. Shrugs – Innocent. Although I have to admit, I thought some shrugs were sort of cute *g*

10. Harem Pants – Guilty. I had a pair of black ones I wore on my honeymoon (I was a child bride – and look how unhappy I was to be wearing them! And don’t even get me started on those fingernails. Holy cow.) Besides harem pants, I had a pair of jeans (acid washed almost white) that were high waisted, with pleats (pleats! So becoming) and a tapered ankle. They were soooo wrong.

11. Acid Wash Jeans – Guilty. Hey, didn’t I mention I was a teen in the 80’s? *g*

12. Low Rise Jeans – Innocent. I do wear low rise jeans but I believe the list is referring to super low rise jeans. You know, the ones that go really, and I mean really-oh-my-gosh-I-think-I-can- see-things-I’m-not-supposed-to-see-that-is-indecent-low.

So, now that I’ve admitted some of my fashion failings (and shared some really bad pictures of myself) let’s hear from you. Are you guilty of any of the aforementioned Fashion Flubs? Any Fashion Flubs they missed? (I can think of a few *g*)

I’ll pick one lucky commenter to win a copy of our own Tawny Weber’s Blaze, Does She Dare? And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Tawny’s latest Blaze, Risque Business (out next week!) a makeover story where the heroine learns how to dress to look and feel her best *g*

From Kirtles to Kicking Butt

by Nancy NorthcottThere’s a reason Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, and every super-heroine since Wonder Woman wore catsuits or some variation thereof. Kicking butt in a kirtle would be pretty much impossible. The clothes, of course, suited the image of The Ideal Woman in their eras. In the Middle Ages, for example, Woman was supposed to be demure, devout, and dominated. This condition persisted until the late 20th century. In some parts of the world (and some regions of the United States), it’s alive and thriving. This isn’t a political blog, though. I suspect most of us, at least in the United States, get more than enough politics to suit us just by turning on the television. It’s a fashion blog. Today we’re going to look at the ways clothes reflected and do reflect the lives of the women wearing them.
The Middle Ages and the concept of courtly love certainly didn’t include women slaying dragons. The woman shown here certainly couldn’t. Her skirt would catch on fire, and that would be that. The man slew dragons, hags, and assorted other evil-doers. He, of course, wore the literal and figurative pants, sometimes armored. In fact, this woman would be hard pressed to clean her own kitchen. She’d be tripping on that skirt all the time. As for leading armies, forget it. Aside from the sheer physical power required to wield a lance or sword, not to mention the need for at least some maneuverability (though true medieval broadsword battles more closely resembled those in A Knight’s Tale than those in my beloved Errol Flynn move, The Adventures of Robin Hood), there’d be all that fabric to manage.
The Middle Ages did, however, give us the first real-life action heroine, Joan of Arc. I discovered her via a Classics Illustrated comic book when I was in second grade (and if I still had it, I’d have a valuable contribution to the boy’s tuition fund, but that’s a subject for a different blog). Joan was cooler than any woman I’d ever seen. This was the age of TV moms who wore pearls in the kitchen and never seemed to wield a vacuum cleaner, only advice. My little comic book geek heart adored Joan. However, the men of her time, included my much-admired English, did not. They put Joan on trial, for heresy if I remember correctly, and part of their reasoning was that she wore men’s clothes. This may be the only fatal fashion faux pas in history. At least Joan got sainthood, albeit posthumously, out of the deal.
From the Middle Ages, we move to the Renaissance, or supposed rebirth of learning and culture. For women, many of whom were well educated if they came from the upper classes or the nobility, the era offered more of the same. Except with better and more ornate fabrics. I have to admit I love the elaborate gowns of the Tudor period. The Henrys, I could do without, but their women were extremely well dressed. I’ll probably have to see The Other Boleyn Girl just to look at the costumes. Wearing all this fabric did make a lot of sense, as did the cumbersome clothes of earlier periods. Whether you lived in a castle or a hut, your home wasn’t draft-proof (hence the heavy tapestries hung on so many walls and sometimes over doors or windows). The Tudors presided over an exciting era, what with Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and Elizabeth I’s sponsorship of explorers/privateers like Sir Francis Drake, but Elizabeth did most of her butt-kicking via surrogates.
Things didn’t improve much for women in the active wardrobe department over the next several centuries. We had bum rolls, farthingales, hoops, corsets, bustles, and other assorted impedimenta designed to interfere with actual living. Granted, most of the fashion extremes were popular among–indeed, only possible for–the very wealthy, but they were held up as ideals of everyone. Around World War I, when things were starting to loosen up, the talented and imaginative Paul Poiret gave (or inflicted upon, depending on your viewpoint) women the hobble skirt, which narrowed at the bottom. After the war, things loosened up considerably, thanks to Chanel and the flappers, but narrow skirts alternated with full in haute couture for the rest of the century. Still popular, judging by Sunday’s red carpet coverage at the Oscars, is the “mermaid dress,” which fits tightly through the body and hips but flares at the knees. Thank goodness it’s not as extreme as it used to be, but can you imagine Sidney Bristow of Alias taking somebody on in an outfit like that?
Women in movie serials like The Perils of Pauline, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, and The Hazards of Helen broke the mold with derring do, but that adventurous spirit didn’t last. On television, Emma Peel was the first real action heroine. I still have a soft spot for Dame Diana Rigg because she was so dynamic. After Emma came the 1960s TV version of Batgirl, who had a few restrictions in the interest of being “ladylike.” (Fewer restrictions prevailed in the comic book. The talented and agile actress who portrayed her, Yvonne Craig, just kicked people because the producers didn’t think viewers would like to see a woman hitting people. Regardless of their methods, though, each of them frequently wore a catsuit. They had to if they wanted to move freely. Well, okay, maybe it didn’t absolutely have to be a catsuit but they needed something less restrictive than a poodle skirt or a pencil skirt.
Then came Linda Hamilton as a super-buff Sarah Connor fighting to defend her son and Gillian Anderson as Special Agent Dana Scully and Catherine Bell as Col. Sarah McKenzie on JAG. For eleven years, Amanda Tapping has played Col. Samantha Carter of Stargate SG-1, frequently appearing in camouflage gear with automatic weapons. I have to admit to a certain bias in favor of Carter, who’s the prototype for the heroines I’d like to have seen on television when I was growing up. With shows like Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Heroes, and Stargate Atlantis on the air, the action heroine and her wardrobe seem safe for the near future.

What’s the most ridiculous or cumbersome outfit you ever saw? Was there one you owned? And yes, bridesmaid dresses count.

Who’s your favorite action heroine on TV, in movies, or in books?

By the way, vote for Trish!