Freely Cultured (Amendment)

Ah, I thought I heard wrong, but not so. My friend's group at the dance did say museums were free on Sunday! In fact, some are free Saturday, and some on Sunday (including MOCA and LACMA)!

I should add that the Saturday one (today!) is for different museums across the country. Readers far and wide outside of LA, I haven't forgotten about you!

Many Thanks for letting me know, Brian! You guys definitely know more about this stuff than I do (hopefully I can go on one of your organized outtings in the near future, since I was never available for the other ones).


Freely Cultured

Ah, after a much needed break, I feel a lot better. Did you miss me?

Today I got a free aerobic workout in the courtyard of the Music Center in Downtown LA. You must be wondering the huh what when where and why. "Don't they just have musicals, plays, and operas there?" Almost...I would take out the word "just." "Unless you're talking about running to catch a show, what kind of exercise could you possibly get?" Plenty, actually. Yes, I've done the running to catch the show thing before, and when you're doing a full sprint in 3-inch heels and outrruning guys while you're at it, it really is quite a workout. All that running was probably what killed my favorite pair of Payless sandals.

Putting that aside, my workout was the courtesy of a program called Dance Downtown. Every once in a while--roughly twice a month on Friday nights, between April and October--there would be a dance complete with lessons and live band. There's a good variety of dances from around the world, ranging from salsa and swing to bhangra and line dancing. Salsa and swing are popular enough to get 2 nights in the season. Best of all, you get all that for free! There's also a free coat check so that you won't have to worry about your stuff while you're smokin' the dance floor. They sell water and other beverages for probably an arm and a few toes, but you can get free water from the fountain located by the sidewalk (it's not obvious, but it's not that hard to find either). Parking, however, is not free. It costs about the same amount you would have had to pay for cover at a club, but unlike a cover charge, you can split the costs if you carpool. If you don't want to hassle with parking, you can try the subway. Take the Red Line to the Civic Center exit, and get out on the 1st Street side. I've been dumb enough to get off on the Temple side and had to walk extra. Extra exercise is usually good, but not when you're going to be on your feet all night long.

While there's a "you get what you paid for" element to the event (small dance floor and very simple lessons), it's still a very enjoyable one. Even if you run out of space on the wood floor, there's plenty of room on the concrete to dance on. October 13 is the last dance of the season, featuring Chicago Steppin' (whatever that is). I've been wanting to go the the Salsa lessons, but I got schedule-conflicted out each time. Bummers. At any rate, you can see the schedule here.

While I was at the dance, I got a very pleasant surprise: I saw my friend there with a bunch of his friends. I totally didn't expect to see him there. Since I don't get to see him much, it was great to see him and meet some of his friends. It was equally nice to see they're a cultured group that enjoys dance and opera (not exactly popular amongst young people nowadays). They mentioned that this weekend many LA museums have free admission, so I decided to look it up when I got home. Sure enough, it's this Saturday. Not all of the museums in LA participate, and none of them are the real biggies, but it's still a nice thing to have. You can check out the list here. Be sure to check out the list of free museum days as well; some museums, including major ones, have one non-peak day (usually a weekday) in the week where admission is free. For MOCA, it's every Thursday, and for LACMA, it's the second Tuesday of the month. LACMA is also free after five all week.


Comment Issues

As a Beta user, I couldn't leave comments on regular Blogger blogs, and I know that regular Blogger users had trouble leaving comments on my blog. I think that issue has been resolved because I was able to leave comments on regular Blogger blogs.

Let me know if it doesn't work!


I need a break...

...from both blogging and shopping.

Juggling work, course work, and law review editorial duties is really burning me out. I need time to just sleep and catch up with my reading and household chores. Next week is another killer week, so I'll be away from blogging for a week or 2.

I also need a break from shopping. Lately I've gone to clothing stores to kill time in between events, so I'm actually a little tired of it. I have a list of very specific things that I need (such as summer work tops), but I need to stay away from nonessentials clothing. I realized that I've amassed so much clothes nowadays that I don't have the opportunity to wear each piece frequently enough, even though I like everything I have. It used to be rare for me to find pants that fit really well, but as my roommate rightly pointed out, it's starting to become less rare.

Here are my latest purchases:

1) Mossimo blazer from Target--$14. This one is actually quite nice. You can just tell it's worth the price based on the amount of work put into it. The pleats in the front require additional fabric and labor, and the blazer is fully lined. When I tried it on, I was wearing a casual outfit (t-shirt and denim mini) and the ensemble looked really good. I bought this blazer specifically for work, but unfortunately, all my work pants are wide-legged or boot-cut so they don't match the blazer very well. This was the best I could do a couple of days ago for work. Since then, I realized that the fit isn't as bad as I thought. It actually looks really good together with these pants:

These Vince pants are an example of a nonessential. The fit is great, the back pockets are cute, and the price is right: $15 instead of $180 from Marshall's because of a little dirt at the hem. They're a good replacement for another pair of white pants that got ruined in the wash, but I don't really need them.

I think that sometimes I snap up these things because I don't think I'll have an opportunity to get such nice things again, but it's not true. Eventually, I do manage to find what I want, and sometimes the find is even better than the one I let go before.

A temporary shopping ban allows for a symbiotic relationship to develop between old clothes and recent purchases. In those 2 outfits above, I paired my new purchases with clothes I should be wearing more--the green Express khaki pants for work, and the Esprit shrug for play/studying. It's also an opportunity to wear multiple older items:

I'm not particularly fond of this outfit, but everyone loved it. Still, it's a good opportunity to pair my new Forever 21 sweater ($1 FIDM damaged special) with my 10+ year old oversized seersucker shirt and my cute but fuschia BCBG shoes. In the outfit with the white pants, I wore a couple of accessories that don't get much wear--a $1 lariat necklace and a huge Hello Kitty ring that's been relegated to weekend wear (no one in the legal circles is going to take me seriously if they see me wearing it).


Constructive Notice

As you can see, the appearance of this blog changed over time. Now it's finally to my satisfaction.

Here's an explanation of the different categories I've organized my posts into:

Accessories--self-explanatory. Since accessories tend to be a cheap means to update the wardrobe, I talk about them quite a bit.

Admin--primarily related to the administrative side of blogging, such as special notices.

Clothing Care--how to make your purchases last without incurring excessive expenses.

Dealy Dally--there are tons of blogs out there announcing sales, but this is not one of them. However, from time to time I will point out sales that I think are noteworthy.

Decision Tree--what this blog is all about. This section includes general strategies as well as decision trees to guide your thinking process.

DIY--Do-it-yourself. This includes crafts and clothing alteration tips.

Domestic Agenda--tips for your home.

Endlessly Entertaining--laugh your way to the bank, or just laugh.

Goods and Services--blame it on my legal education for this misnomer. When I created this category, I had the Uniform Commercial Code on my mind. The Goods and Services section covers primarily services, as in how to save money when you're not buying fungible items. I thought I'd make this category somewhat of a catch-all for the few occasions when I want to talk about the sale of goods and the discussion doesn't fit anywhere else.

Multiuse--I'm a big fan of trying to find as many uses for a particular item as possible.

Problem Solved--direct solutions or work-arounds for certain pesky problems.

Professional Life--it is possible to minimize the costs associated with projecting a professional image.

Review--self-explanatory. Reviews can be on any number of things.

She Shoots/She Scores--some of the spoils of my (bargain) hunts.

Special Series--a place for me to keep serial posts contiguous.

Style--I'm by no means a fashionista, but I do have opinions on how to maximize the life of fashion purchases. Read all about my crazy ideas.

The Soapbox--I should have named this "the lecturn" instead. My random rants and raves.


As for the header, it speaks to what I want this blog to be: methodical and informative but also creative and fun. As much as I hated Bayesian statistics (see the formula on the notepad?) I think it's a good protocol for how to think things through. You can also get a glimpse of the workshorse machine that makes this blog possible. The necklace is something I've blogged about in the past, and the top is something I'll write about in the near future. The tags? That's to guilt-trip me into not shopping. I've amassed quite a few of those...


Sorry, wrong number...or is it?

It's always interesting to see how people accidentally stumbled on this blog. Most of the time people wound up looking at my page when they were looking for something entirely different.

Many hits came from searches on particular designer labels I've mentioned, such as Mike & Chris and Geren Ford (which was referenced multiple times). Sometimes people search for pages related to clothes shrinking and wound up reading these posts.

The most frequently used string of words by far is "Target markdown schedule." I guess there's a lot of like-minded Target shoppers out there. The schedule is actually on the Slave to Target page; I just talked about it a little bit.

The "Deceptively Similar" award goes to "off the rack." Many people expecting to find a definition for that term left my blog disappointed. I'll tell you now straight up what it is: it just means ready-to-wear, as in you can pick it off the rack, buy it, take it home, and wear it.


Little Fish|Big, Big Pond

This question is for you: of all the blogs out there, how did you find this one? I've often wondered.


What's in a name?

I guess I'll make this week a "birthday week" of sorts. I'll do short posts of ideas that floated around for a while.

Coming up with good titles is not my strong suit. It took me like 10 tries to come up with a title for my law review article. I wanted something that's fun and adequately describes the content. Well, the title turned out to be 2 sentences long. Ah well, it's not like anyone is going to read it (which is why I still have a whole box of off-prints with glossy covers sitting in my room).

While it's OK to have ginormously long titles for scholarly works, it just doesn't work for fun stuff. I don't recall how exactly I came up with the title of "Hot Off the Sales Rack," but I do remember having a debate over whether to use "sale" or "sales." The term "sale rack" would have made more sense grammatically, but I've seen the term "sales rack" before and thought it sounded more melodious.

There you have it--yes, I know it's bad grammar, but I took phonetic license anyway.


Exactly one year ago, I was in the middle of applying for a summer job with the U.S. Department of Justice when a completely unrelated idea popped into my head. I'm not sure what exactly inspired the idea. Maybe I was tired from rushing to get the application done, or maybe it's something else, I don't really know. I think it was one of those "why should we hire you" questions and I mentioned my "creative" brand of legal reasoning. I ended up not getting the USDOJ job, but something positive did happen that day.

I signed up for a Blogger account, and I just started writing.

When I started "Hot Off the Sales Rack," I didn't expect anyone to read it at all. All I wanted to do was to write down my ideas about saving money because, like those other spontaneous thoughts that pop into my head so frequently, they don't always make a whole lot of sense. When my friends ask me how I managed to save money, it always takes me a while to know what to say, because it's an intuitive process that I had trouble expressing in words. I figured that once I put it down on paper, I can sort everything out and find a method in the madness. If my notes can help someone else, then all the better.

Over time, I was surprised to learn that people are reading this thing. I found out recently that I have a small but dedicated corps of readers, and that number is steadily growing. I want to say a big Thank You to all of you for supporting this blog. Knowing that I have someone to write for inspires me to do a better job.


The Skinny on Paying Less

OooKay...so I tried to be clever with the title by combining two different subjects at once. It doesn't really do any good. Moving on...

Since the mall was on my way home following an errand, I decided to stop by. I figured that I might be able to score some good, cheap summer tops for work now that Fall weather is here. I didn't buy anything at the mall (which was good, since I did buy something at Target earlier), but I did observe a couple of things:

1) For those of you who like skinny jeans, Express has a pretty good sale for them. I went to an Express with a friend a couple of days ago (at a different location from today), where the sale price was not very apparent. The Express store I went today had a ton of $20 skinny jeans on sale, and the management made it a selling point. I decided to try them on for the heck of it, knowing that the style doesn't work for me. Even if they did look good on me, I was between sizes, so I wouldn't have bought them. At least I got to "review" them for everyone else. The jeans are surprisingly comfortable, with a bit of stretch. Way too long, as usual, but that could easily be dealt with. I give the Express sale skinny jeans a thumbs up.

2) Payless has teamed up with Abaeté, a designer label headed by Laura Poretzky. Most people probably don't know about Abaeté, but when I heard that the designer was teaming up with Payless to create a line of affordable shoes, I got really excited. My first exposure to Abaeté was through Le Train Bleu, one of my favorite sites for e-window-shopping (I'll have to credit my sister with that term). The clothes are simply gorgeous, and beyond my reach price-wise. I'm not here to discuss the merits and downsides of designers who are getting into the Target-style for-the-masses lines as a means to market their upscale lines, though I find it to be a fascinating debate (several bloggers, including The Budget Fashionista, dissected it a lot better than I ever can). What I will say is that good designs at affordable prices is a good thing.

My initial impression was that the Abaeté line was only available at select locations, which often means higher-income areas and certainly not the Payless in my 'hood. The mall I went to is in a middle-class area, so I thought that I'd have the best chance of finding the Abaeté shoes there. There they were, prominently displayed near the entrance. The prices were just a notch above the average Payless price, but they were very affordable. The collection was small (4 types of shoes, multiple colors of each), but they were well-designed. My favorite is the red Casey flat, and the purple/black Oliver d'Orsay pump was classy and cute. The tall boots were cute, but I didn't like the ankle boot.


Meal-time Shopping

Many people use their lunch hour to work out, shop, etc. I usually use mine to, well, eat. I guess I just like to take the time to enjoy my food and not worry about hurrying from one place to another. But today was different. Due to the nature of the work I was doing, and the fact that my back was hurting, I just had to get out and walk around. It didn't take me long to eat, so I had quite a bit of time left. I used that time to visit the local DSW, which is very different from the one I usually hit. This particular location had really high-end things--think Prada, Missoni, and Givenchy at 20-80% off. Granted the post-discount price still equate the painful removal of multiple appendages, it's hard to find that kind of discount anywhere else.

I was there to look for a pair of strappy sandals for going out, since I have yet to find a pair that's inexpensive and suits my specifications. Today's trip still didn't end that search. However, the clearance handbags were all really good. I managed to bring home this one:

Pollini bags don't come cheap. I've seen them at Loehmann's, where I was still not able to afford them. This one retailed $250, then down to DSW's retail of $100, then another 80% off = about $20. I've been looking for a light-colored bag that I can take to work, and this fits the bill. It's not perfect--a few streaks and the straps are kinked, probably from hanging too long on the racks--but it's hard to find a high-quality, stylish leather bag for $20 anywhere else. I figured that as my hand carries the bag, the shoulder kink would be gone. At checkout, I joined their frequent buyer's club (kind of like Loehmann's Insider Club) for the points. Since I like their merchandise and it's free to join, why not?

After work, I was to meet up with friends and head to the gym together. Since they had something to do between the time I got out of work and the time we met, I decided to spend some quality time at the local Ross. Couldn't find any sandals there either, but when I saw these Bandolino boots, I thought, "Wow, these are hot!"

OK, so they don't look as nice under flash, but take my word for it that they're pretty. I've been searching for a pair of brown knee-high boots for a few years. These are only mid-calf boots, but it makes more sense to buy them than to hold out for a knee high pair. It's nice to have variety--I already have ankle boots and knee-high boots, so why not get something in between? They were $25--not dirt cheap, but good enough of a price point. While I was at Ross, I found a pair of Rampage sunglasses and some double-sided tape. I'm perfectly willing to spend $3 on the tape because it's so hard to make something similar at home.

While these two pieces were chosen primarily for the classic look, they also have elements that make them look edgy. Subtle buckles and studs toughen them up, and they're not so garish as to go out of style quickly. These accessories will survive in my closet for quite a while. They'll be suitable for work outfits as well as casual outfits. Here's the outfit I thought I'd wear for school (and shopping with a friend afterwards):

Yup, the bag is big enough to carry my books.

[Ed.: I ended up wearing this sweater, since it was overcast. Much better outfit since it doesn't show as much skin, but I guess I should have known better than to wear these short shorts to school.]

Well, that's it. I'll be very busy this weekend and early next week. Next Monday is the 1-year birthday for this blog. I had planned to do a special feature, but that'll have to be postponed. Oh well, that's life; belated birthdays happen all the time.



As you may have noticed, I made a lot of changes on the layout of the blog over the last few months. First was the color scheme, and now more of the structure. I'll explain the different categories I've set up in due time. Even though I don't believe there should be any issues with it, please note that I have updated my footer to make the terms less clumsy. The edits mainly concern intellectual property rights.

I reserve the right to amend the disclaimer at any time; it's still a work in progress and should get better as my legal drafting skills improve. Sure, I could have used the terms "herein" and "thereof," but clarity is better than sophistication.


Tied, Zipped, and Styled

Today brings 2 unusual ways to work common fashion elements.

1) I was studying at a coffee shop over the weekend when a customer drew my notice. The all-over tattoo tends to get attention, but what I was really staring at was the strap of her camisole top. One strap is an ordinary spaghetti strap that you'd see everywhere, but the other was replaced or sewn over by a zipper. I thought it was a really cool, simple, and inexpensive way to put a transform a top. Of course, the punkish look isn't for everyone, but it's a good concept nonetheless. If you're not into zippers, you can achieve that asymmetric look with lace trim, ribbon, shoelaces, or whatever suits your fancy.

2) I've always wanted a wide obi belt, but I've yet to find a really cheap one that I like. I was reaching into my closet for an ordinary brown to put around my newly thrifted oversized top when a lightbulb went off--the tie! I bought the tie a long time ago for a costume and have always wondered how I can put it to practical daily use. As much as I like the menswear look, I am not into the idea of wearing the tie around my neck. While I stewed for ideas, the tie was hung alongside the belts.

I seriously don't know how these ideas spontaneously pop into my head...maybe it was a combination of knowing that I need a belt and remembering to wear the tie in different ways. In either case, here's what came out of that feverish mental cauldron:

I put the widest part of the tie on me first, then wrapped it all the way around, letting the thin end drape over. To keep all the layers in place, I used a clip-on button earring I made a while ago. In some geographical locales, vintage clip-on earrings are easy to come by at a very low price. If you don't want to take that option, safety pins should work. You can also try using bobby pins, but it's also not very secure. However, using both the clip-on and a bobby pin kept things in place fairly well. While the clip-on/bobby pin method requires periodic adjustments, it's a good way of keeping the tie hole-free (you know, so that your husband/boyfriend/dad/brother/roommate/guy friend won't find out you've violated the sanctity of his wardrobe).

If you feel weird about people finding out it's a tie, keep the ends on the side. Or cover it up with a sweater, like I'll ultimately have to do in class not because of embarrassment, but because the classroom is always frigid:


Spaced Out

Apparently Beta Blogger's compose mode isn't WYSIWYG. For certain paragraphs, the spacing between the text and the pics are all wrong. That's not as big of a problem as the spacing within the text itself--some paragraphs have letters that are all squished together. For whatever reason, Blogger decides to put in a lot of excess div tags. I went back through the last few posts to correct the problem, so hopefully it'll make it easier to reading my already difficult to read/long and rambling posts.

Yellow Pearl's Homophonically Derogatory Cousin

In law, we use all kinds of tests to prove our case: the undue burden test, the substantially related test, and one balancing test or another. There are 2 other informal tests known to all practitioners: the straight face test and the smell test. If your arguments don't pass either, don't bother using them in front of a judge. Oddly enough, these two tests also work very well in helping me decide whether or not to buy a particularly funky piece of clothing.

On my last trip to the thrift store, I was apparently fixated on the color yellow. After I put the yellow clutch (the subject of the last post) into my shopping basket, I rifled through the dress racks. I found a very cute yellow dress. I didn't bring my camera, so I had to draw it from memory (you can start to see where I'm going with this). Sorry for my lousy sketching skills and my subsequent bad coloring in MS Paint--I'm at an age and in a profession where I don't see the need to keep a box of crayons or coloring pencils around.

Even though I dislike almost everything from the 80's, I thought this dress was seriously cute. It was labeled a Large but it fits quite well on me. The black pipings, pockets, and big buttons added a funky edge. Yet something was wrong. First, I realized that as cute as this dress is, I would only get a few wears out of it. I already have a lot of dresses and probably won't get around to wearing this one much. Second, the bright color was of concern. Now, I'm the type of person who ordinarily loves yellow. I own several yellow tops, and that bright yellow clutch I bought adds a nice touch to a work outfit:

(The skirt was also thrifted on the same excursion; it has a beautiful blue-green color, not like this royal blue, which is also pretty in its own right.)

However, if I walk out onto the street in a bright banana yellow dress, people aren't going to be able to keep a straight face. Come to think of it, the black pipings and buttons would also make me look like a bumblebee.

What really convinced me to put it down was the failure to pass the smell test. As I pulled the dress over my head, I detected a faint smell of something. After I took it off, I pulled the fabric closer to my nose and smelled what I thought was rancid perfume. The smell was quite close to barf, though I'm fairly certain that it's not the source. Sure, it might come off in the wash, but like the musty smells on some of my old bags, there's a chance that it won't. To protect those who are forced to stand with me in close quarters in the future, I decided that smell trumped cuteness. I don't regret my decision, even as I think back at how cute the dress looked.

Yellow Pearl

Behold this beauty:

I nabbed this gem of a vintage clutch at the Goodwill for $2. It didn't look this squeaky clean when I bought it. In fact, it was marred by lots of marks, including a very prominent black streak. However, I figured that since the surface is vinyl, I can wash most of it off with soap and water, then take care of the rest of it with a relatively safe organic solvent: nail polish remover.

Common household chemicals can come in very handy in the lab. Clear nail polish is commonly used used to seal slides for immunoflouresence. Conversely, I serendipitously discovered the useful properties of nail polish remover back in college. In an organic chemistry lab course, I accidently yanked a waterhose, causing a flask of cyclopentadienone to come loose, spill all over a pocket on my lab coat, and dump its remaining load onto the floor. Fortunately I didn't break the flask (or else I'd have to pay extra for it), but I made a huge mess. When I got back to my dorm, I tried to wash off the huge purple stain that stuck to the white fabric, to no avail. The nonpolar purple stuff just isn't soluble in a polar, inorganic solvent. While I was steaming at the bathroom sink, a lightbulb went off: acetone is an organic solvent, and my roommate had a bottle of nail polish remover. As it turns out, the nail polish remover brew wasn't all that strong (it is, after all, a mix of chemicals), but some of the stain did come off. From then on, nail polish remover has been a part of my cleaning supplies. If you can use it on your hand, then it should be mild enough as to not destroy your belongings.

Back to my present-day cleaning enterprise: I first cleaned the bag with a wet paper towel and some hand soap. As for the streaks, I scratched them off gently to the extent that I could, then I followed up with a nailpolish remover-laden tissue, wiping in a circular motion. Most of the marks came right off, and whatever is left isn't very visible. Good as new!

One word of caution: the fingers I used to hold the acetone-soaked wipers now has dried and crackly skin. It's not good to be overexposed to chemicals, so use it only if other methods have failed. Besides, who knows if you're stripping off the parts of the surface on your bag as well? In the aforementioned lab accident, I used acetone to clean off the floor where the flask dropped. Sure, I sopped up a lot of the chemicals, but I was also stripping the wax off the floor. Oops. So, be careful, and use sparingly. Test on some nooks and crannies before wiping down the rest of your bag.


Altered States: Part 4

5 for $5 isn't just a grocery store special anymore. Two weeks ago, I got 5 tops from FIDM for a dollar each. Before that, I got a few at a time. Some had really minor flaws, some required more work. Either way, the clothes are incredibly cheap, and fixing them gives me more experience in sewing by hand.

Let's start with a really easy fix. If something is missing buttons, see if it's a kind that's easily replaceable. If it is, great. If the button is somewhat of a specialty, see if there's another cheap, damaged clone and buy it just for the buttons. It's wasteful to destroy a garment that has minor flaws, so if all you want are the buttons, pick something that's so beat up that no one would want to buy it. Finally, if it's a specialty button and you can't buy another item with the same buttons, you can either a) change all of the buttons, or b) take off one or two of the bottom-most buttons and move them up top. Don't forget about the bottons on pockets and the sleeves!

Next comes hardware that you can remove altogether without leaving a trace. Take a look at Exhibit A:

The beads were sewn to each shoulder strap like so. This top ended up in the $1 racks because one link of the beads came off, sending the beads hanging. Since I'm lazy and like to throw everything into the machine, I found the beads cumbersome and wanted to take them off, leaving just a black beater. Since I make jewelry, I have the pliers necessary to repair the link, which means I get a new necklace out of it. The detachable flower pin is an added bonus. The same rationale is applicable to clothes with interesting patches, bottons, or other decorative detail worth salvaging.

If something is wrong with the cloth itself, things get trickier. If holes result from problems at the seam, they should be easy to repair. Cotton fabric is pretty easy to deal with. However, more work may be needed for cheap knits. I got a hooded knit sweater that had several holes along the seam attaching the hood to the rest of the sweater. Since the hood covers up the holes, I figured my lousy sewing skills won't show. Unfortunately, my repairs came partly undone in the wash. My mom ended up undoing all of my handiwork and spent an hour carefully stitching into the bottom and then the top layers of fabric in the hood.

Her work is infinitely better than mine. With my skills, things barely hold up well enough through a few wears. I need to learn to sew better.

When the rips are not at the seams, we start to tread into dangerous territory. They become more exposed. If that's the case, only get things with small rips at locations that do not draw attention. This is what I wore for work sometime last week:

OK, so the picture is too small and washed out for anyone to see. What if I clue you in with this picture?

Still can't tell?

The rip is right below the seam around the collar, just like a small scar on skin. This is a good location for women with long hair because the flaw gets covered up. The hem is another good location. If the top is really long and the rip is a few inches above the hem, one option is to chop off the bottom and just hem it.

Rips are fairly easy to repair. With the floral top, I closed the hole by holding the ripped flap in place (just like fitting pieces of a puzzle) and sewing the pieces together. If the hole in the fabric is not just a rip, but rather caused by a missing piece of fabric, you'll have to think about whether you can sew a cute patch on it. If not, it's probably better to stay away.

I usually counsel against buying things with stains on it, but I broke my own rule this time. I found a really cute off-white graphic tee with trails of dry things stuck on it (probably food), leaving wine-colored stains. The t-shirt was off-white and has a vintage feel to it, and the stains were fairly small and complementary in color. I figured that food should wash off, and if the stains don't, they looked like they belonged there. This is what it looked like after I washed it:

There's a really tiny stain left if you hold it up to the light, but if you can't tell here, you surely can't tell from far away:

Small, complementary stains that look food- or makeup-based have the greatest likelihood of getting washed off. Beyond that, tough luck. Oil stains are especially hard to spot. I bought a pretty and sheer Saint Grace cami with lace trim. I inspected the seams and the fabric for holes and could find none. I thought that maybe I lucked out, that there really isn't any damage. I didn't find out until months later that the entire top was stained by lotion or something, which made the top more translucent. Since the top was sheer to begin with, it wasn't much of a problem, but it's definitely another flaw on my checklist for future reference.

Unless you have a sewing machine or can sew in straight lines very well, I would stay away from wonky zippers. You know something's wrong when you have a hard time zipping up. This dress looked flawless, and for $2.50, I thought I was getting a great deal.

The zipper got stuck a little, but it didn't seem like a big problem. In fact, the dress was OK until the second wash, but that's when it became unwearable. The seams came apart, causing the cheap imitation chiffon to fray at the ends. I fixed it somewhat, but the zipper problem got worse. It turns out the fabric part of the zipper had worn away so much that it was not able to distribute the force exerted by zipping. Therefore, zipping up became 10 times harder. My quick fix was using thread to mend it together, but I know I'd have to either replace the zipper eventually. When I finally zipped up the dress, I noticed that the problem would have been easy to spot if I knew what to look for:

See those two big brown bulges toward the top of the picture? That's a sign the zipper has weakened. I'd advise you to stay away if you don't know how to change the zipper.

That's it for tonight...it took a long time to explain things in a coherent fashion (better than the last 2 parts, if nothing else). Next time I'll talk what just I found at the thrift store, and how I cleaned it.


Altered States: Part 3

To recap: I bought a Geren Ford dress with too-long shoulder straps. I took a part the lining where the strap, pulled the strap out, and shortened it. Now it's time to put it back in. Since I don't know how to sew, my explanations of what I did are probably going to be murky. Hopefully the pictures will explain what my words do not.

Before you pick up a needle, make sure the strap isn't twisted around--there's nothing worse than spending all this time sewing the strap back in, only to find out you've screwed up. Line up Point A (the point to which you want the strap shortened) with the creased edge of the outside lining, above where the old holes are. As you can see from this pic, the "right" side of the fabric is folded over (forming the creased edge), then the folded-over side is sewn to the strap. We want to reuse the old holes for a couple of reasons: 1) we don't want to make any more holes in the delicate fabric than necessary, and 2) the old holes is a guide on where to sew, and having that guidance saves us a lot of time and trouble.

Attach the strap to the outside lining. You should start the first stitch by threading the needle through an old hole in the lining, from bottom to top. Next, get that needle up through the strap. When the needle comes down through the strap, make sure it goes through an old hole in the lining (or as close as possible). The needle should go through only 1 layer of the lining, not two...since the edge is folded over, it's easy to get both layers. Once you get it started, doing backstitches should be easy.

The tricky part is attaching the strap to the inside lining. At this time, you want the outside lining facing you so that you can keep track of how good the outside looks. For the first strap I modified, I decided that it would be better if I sewed both layers of the lining together through the strap, even if a little bit of the stitches will show in the front lining. I opted for security (such that the strap will stay on) over aesthetics. As you sew, hold the layers in place with your finger tips. To minimize cosmetic concerns, use really small stitches.

Finished product: the strap isn't completely flat (you can see a slight kink) and my stitches weren't completely straight, but they get the job done. My lousy handiwork isn't immediately apparent.

For the second strap, I decided to try a different approach. Instead of sewing all the way through the outside lining, I sewed just through the strap and the inside fold of the outer lining. As you can see, the stitching is messier on the inside lining, but it's not open to the public anyway. This strap is also not perfectly flat, but no stitches are visible on the outside. This is actually a better method.

Alas, shortening the straps did little to solve the low cut problem. If you think this is bad, think of how much worse it was before.

At least now I can wear it without worrying about the risk of indecent exposure. I also learned a valuable lesson on shortening straps, a skill that I can use on a couple of other tops.

Next time I'll talk about damaged specials--which ones are salvageable, and which ones are not worth it.


Altered States: Part 2

This is going to be a picture-intensive tutorial, so I'll break it into 2 parts.

A few weeks ago I spotted a Geren Ford dress at the FIDM Scholarship Store. At the time, I loved the print, but didn't buy the dress because it was too low cut. When I went again last week, only the smallest sizes were left. I wanted to wear the dress over another top anyway, so the low cut problem isn't significant, but what if I manage to shorten the straps? I just might be able to wear it on its own. Hmm...I figured that I better get one in my size (and one that's in good shape) before it was gone.

Here's the dress before surgery. I simply can't wear it by itself:

Yes, I know it's not Christmas. No, my knees are not really this weird-looking.

I could have just folded the strap over at the back of the dress and sew it down, but I didn't want to ruin the silk fabric. If the extra bits got caught and tugged, the whole dress might be ruined. Therefore, I decided to try to do a more professional job. It might take a long time, but it's better than risking a ripped-up dress. The best job possible could have been achieved by taking the lining apart, shortening the straps, then sewing the whole thing back together again, but that wasn't feasible since I don't have a sewing machine. The next best thing to do was to take the dress apart where the straps were connected, so that's how I proceeded.

Tools: needle, thread, scissors, ruler, pencil, and a nail clipper...wha?!? While scissors are nice for cutting big things, delicate surgery at the seams requires a smaller cutting tool. The curved blades of a nail clipper offers that kind of precision.

Before you do anything to the dress, put it on and see how much you need to cut off. Make sure your chopping job is reasonable--you don't want to end up cutting too much and end up restricting your movements. Hold on to the amount you want to shorten and move your arm around--raise it up, to the side, etc.--to make sure you feel comfortable with the new length.

Here's a view of the inside of the dress.

See the stitches holding the inner and outer lining together? The first step is to snip off a few stitches where the strap is. Use a needle to carefully pry out the thread, then cut with the nail clipper. Don't take apart the lining any more than necessary. We want to sew the strap back in the original location, and what better way to find it than the plug-and-chug method?

I intended to start taking the strap apart at the back of the dress so that my subpar workmanship can remain hidden, but I didn't realize that I started at the front until after seeing these pictures (and that's when I started kicking myself). Well, don't repeat my mistake. Start at the back of the dress on the side where the label is.

Once you've cut apart a few stitches, gently pull apart at the seams. Enough of the thread should be exposed such that you can pry that apart and snip. Once you take out one stitch, the rest should come out easily. Chances are, the strap is also sewn to the outer lining. If that's the case, take out the stitches on that side as well.

My, it does get quite messy. Stuff the loose ends back inside.

Measure the strap and mark how much you want to shorten (I'll call this "Point A"), starting from where the strap was originally sewn in (where the holes are). You also want to leave about 1cm below Point A to stick in between the linings. Cut off the excess.

Tune in next time to see how to put the dress back together again! It's pretty hard to describe, so I'll chew on it.


Is Beta Betta?

We shall see. I just switched over to the newfangled beta version of Blogger. Don't know how some of my posts and the ability to leave comments will be affected yet. If you're one of my regular readers and leaving a comment with your Blogger account doesn't work, you can still use the "other" (type in your blog URL) or anonymous functions.

Already I'm encountering a few problems. I can't use HTML tags in my profile. Boo...

The good news is that I can put labels on each post so that they can be categorized by subject matter. I wanted to find a way to do that a while ago, and now it's gotten easier. However, while the drag-and-drop Layout interface is nice, I don't have as much control as I did under the old template. I had a basic working knowledge of CSS, JavaScript, and HTML, but not XML. Thus, I'm having lots of trouble tweaking the new template.