Costume in Disguise

Halloween is just around the corner. With the economy being the way it is, a wear-once-and-toss costume probably isn't the wisest idea. At the same time, we can all use some fun and levity to forget about the stress for a while.

One simple costume I've worn for a party this past weekend was a pirate costume for a pirate-themed party. It was an outfit I put together literally at the last minute, since I didn't know if I would finish my work in time and be able to go until, well, the last minute. It's all very simple, and you probably have some if not all of the items in your closet--one top with thin stripes (preferrably in dark colors), one pair of wide-legged pants, and a large scarf wrapped around and tied behind my back. You can add a cheap eye patch for an extra-piraty touch, or add a few tats with an eyeliner. You can also throw on a few beaded necklaces as booty. Yar!

If you don't want to fuss over the clothes, go crazy with the makeup while wearing something quite ordinary; it'll be a rather shocking contrast. Liberally and creatively apply your reddest lipstick for a bloody frightening effect. Go goth with lots of black eyeliner and a $1 tube of black lipstick...Halloween is the one time you can live out your Goth fantasies without repercussions.

Current events also offer a lot of inspirations. Turn your vision of Joe Sixpack into a reality. If beer gut isn't your thing, it's easy to pull off a Joe the Plumber look, too--overalls are in no short supply at thrift stores, and most people are bound to have a wrench around the house; just add a "Hello, My Name is Joe" sticker and you're ready to go.

I'll most likely be at a deposition on Halloween, and thanks to the typical LA traffic, it'll be hard to have time to get ready. It'll be a challenge to convert my costume into something business-like during the day and wear it as-is when I head straight to party. I think it's possible...

Do you have any ideas for costumes with common things around the house and closet?


Tis the Season (and the Reasons)

The Fall clearance and warehouse sales are here. Weak retail sales have also resulted in significant markdowns far earlier in the season. While I've curbed spending for myself (I did sneak in another pair of comfortable flats before my shopping ban...oops), it doesn't mean I'll skip them. That's because it's time to start shopping for Christmas.

Some people have expressed surprised when I tell them that I'm starting my Christmas shopping now. They become even more shocked when I tell them that I used to shop year-round, when I still had the time. But it has been my custom and practice to find something special that I know the recipient will like AND to get a great price on top of it, and I'm not about to change that now, especially when the economy is bad. It takes time to find the right gift, so if it isn't perishable, why not snag it when you find it, rather than regret it later when it's gone?

However, there is the issue of making sure that it is something that person is absolutely looking for, wants, or needs. Otherwise, the gift may need to be accompanied by a viable return receipt. Return periods tend to be rather limited, so that has to be taken under consideration. But then again, the return periods during the Christmas season may be even more limited than the regular year. Now is arguably a part of the "regular year," and it's close enough to the holidays but not quite in the holiday season, so it might be the best time to start shopping.


If Only Time Was Free

Free time. What's that?

I have quite a bit of work on top of travelling for work to do this week (just came home after hours of work and driving), so I won't be doing any posting until next week. Since my other pending work trip later this week involves 2 very, very, very long drives to and fro, I might be a bad girl and reward myself with a stop by a normally faraway outlet, which happens to be on my way home. Every traveller needs a rest stop every now and then, right? ;-) [UPDATE: work trip got cancelled, but lots of work remains. I'll miss the outlet, but I'll also miss the traffic, so I guess it's even.]



Fabric Contented

What good does a good deal on fabric do if I don't make use of said fabric? Last week I sat down and got through a few projects that I've always wanted to pursue.

My primary purpose for buying a sewing machine was to hem pants. However, since my machine did not come with a blind hem foot, that project had to be put on hold for quite some time. It was a while before I managed to procure one from a sewing products store in the Garment District of Downtown LA. Then more time elapsed before I found time to actually sew. The sewing process took a very long time, since I haven't done this before. In the end, I had a pair of wearable pants, which was good. The job isn't perfect, but since the pants are black, no one can tell. The next pair of pants will come out looking better for it.

Once I got started, I couldn't stop sewing. I decided to make 2 pouches--one for holding some sewing notions, and the other for holding some personal effects in my purse. I drew my pattern on an Arts insert in the newspaper, since the paper is nice and thick (and recycling is good and free). Then it was time to cut the fabric, which wasn't hard--a light, stiff cotton lining and a canvas fabric for the outside.

The fabric was easy to cut, but sewing them was a struggle. I had a hard time getting the tension right (and I'm not sure I ever completely succeeded). I did the sewing notions bag first, since it won't be seen in public. I made a few mistakes here and there, so the bag ended up smaller then I had planned. And for some reason, I just couldn't get a button hole done. I gave up on it, since I don't really need an enclosure for this bag.

I moved on to the bag that would see daylight. Unfortunately, I sewed in such a way that the wrong side of the lining was turned outward. At least the print still shows, but I could see that the project was not going to go well. To my surprise, sewing the rest of the bag was not quite so bad. However, the button hole came back to haunt me again. I believe that the thread I used was just too thick, since the machine jammed again, and again, and again, even though I got the settings right. In the end, I cheated and created my button hole with a zigzag stitch instead of using the buttonhole foot and function. It ain't pretty, but it got the job done.

My sewing binge ended after I finished my chiffon scarf. When I first bought this fabric, I knew that I wanted to make a scarf out of it. I also knew that hemming the edges of the delicate chiffon material was going to be a challenge. The blind hem foot made things easier, though the corners were still a struggle. The feeding dogs kept on eating the corners. Still, a scarf is a scarf is a scarf. I'll just consider the slightly-frayed corners as a "special feature for a handmade look." I love the print, and I like wearing it with a "tough" outfit--the light chiffon softens the look just so.

[BCBG green sleeveless top, Joie denim moto jacket, my own scarf, Miss Sixty pants (which I just hemmed), black and white plaid Nikes]

Total cost of materials: less than a dollar. Struggling and cursing and finally getting a finished product and a great learning experience: priceless.


Broken Soles

I love vintage heels. They just don't make 'em like they used to anymore. I love the colors and details that set them apart. Also, the narrower lengths seem to fit me better.

Sadly, vintage heels can only withstand the test of time for so long. I got this dark blue-green pair from the Goodwill quite some time ago. The color is gorgeous, the cut-outs are just right. And the heel has been pretty sturdy--I replaced the heel caps before the very first wear, and they have held up very well ever since.

This week marks the demise of three pairs of pumps. For someone who has what most people would characterize a desk job, I do an insane amount of walking. I had two black pairs of pumps that I wore very regularly for work. The heel caps on these newer shoes did not last as long as my vintage heels; I have already replaced them several times, and at this rate, the entire shoe is so worn out that it is not worth repairing anymore. The third pair to expire is the pair pictured above. As I said, the heel caps were not the problem. Instead, the soles were.

I contemplated replacing the soles and keep on wearing them, but the upper is fraying, and a few bars on the cutouts are barely clinging on for dear life. It was time to let them go.

Quite fittingly, the last trip the shoes took me on was a trek to DSW, in which I tried to find a worthy replacement. I did not find the black pumps I was searching for, or even blue ones, but I found something that was too good to pass up--something simple and neutral, classic but not plain. I've been eyeing a vibrant blue version of it for months, waiting until the markdowns came. In the end, it just seemed to be a better idea to go with the less flashy color. The soles were comfortable, not rock hard like man-made soles can be. That would making sprinting between courtrooms (which I do quite often) a tad easier.

Lately, I've developed an unhealthy attraction to Italian Leather. All-leather shoes are so comfortable, but as much as my feet need the comfort, they can be quite pricey, even when I can get a good discount on it. At least this time my pocketbook is as happy as my feet--at 80% off, plus my $10 off coupon, I ended up getting a pair of $300 shoes for $50 after tax. So far, I have a pretty good track record with shoes in that price range--despite getting lots and lots of action, my Calvin Klein black pumps have shown nary a sign of wear. Hopefully this pair will last a long, long time as well.

[UPDATE: I wore them today, and I swear...they feel soft like butter. And they look great with jeans.

(Max Studio sweater, Forever 21 gray camisole and black light coat, my own Daisy Chain bracelet, 7 for All Mankind Ginger jeans, Giuseppe Zanotti slingbacks)

That is all.]

At any rate, I need to stop buying shoes. I've put the lid on clothes, but my fondness for footwear is rather difficult to suppress.


The Late Bird Gets the Shoes

The early bird gets the worm, but the latecomer can get something even better. While the early bird has a greater chance of getting what she wants, the one who waits can get great discounts...if that special something is hasn't sold out.

I've been eyeing a couple of pairs of shoes for quite some time, just waiting for them to go on sale at the end of summer. Unlike a lot of my fellow Californians, I'm really not much of a flipflops person. Since I don't have very many pairs of flat summer sandals, that was something I looked out for. A pair of Pour La Victoire "Nannette" sandals caught my eye. I first saw the hot pink version of it in a magazine; the shoes sure look hot, but the price tag ($150 for a pair of sandals) didn't. It is good that I'm not much of an impulse shopper, because I changed my mind about the hot pink. It's fun and it's different from what I have, but in the end, I figured that a more practical color would be better.

One day I decided to search for the sandals on Amazon, since I've heard many people get good deals on shoes. Sure enough, the sandals I was looking for came up at 70% off. However, since I've been buying quite a few pairs of shoes lately, I didn't want to spend another $45 on shoes just yet. Holding off turned out to be a wise idea--after another week or so went by, the sandals were now 80% off ($32). Since Amazon had free shipping for orders over $25, it was an even better deal. I just got them today, and I love them. The weather has suddenly cooled down after weeks of 90-degree temperatures, but I won't be surprised if I'll be putting these on again soon.

Another pair of shoes I purchased is something that is worth every penny. I have a penchance for pieces that are classy but just a little edgy. Since I've had to dispose of 2 pairs of very worn-out pumps (not very professional when threads are exposed), I wanted another pair of heels that can be worn for work or play in the summer. When I saw the black version of these Loeffler Randall slingbacks, I loved them. Unfortunately, I didn't love the price quite so much. Around the time I found the sandals above, I found the white version of the shoes in my size at, curiously enough, Neiman Marcus's Last Call Clearance section online. They are some $300 cheaper than retail, and at least $50 less than the sale prices I've seen. Since shipping isn't cheap, I decided to bookmark it and come back later. Sure enough, a "free shipping at any price" promotion came along a week later, and I kenw it was time to bite. Good thing I did, too--it was the last pair.

Like Hebden, I also have a thing for studs. I don't care so much for the studded collars and punked-out belts, but I love it when studs are more subtle and makes something classic a little more rock and roll. This achieves the perfect effect.

During the hot days, I've been wearing the shoes as intended. However, the reason I wanted the white instead of the black version is this: I knew they would look great in colder weather when paired with black tights. They really do stand out.



[Above: my own Poppyseed necklace, Target black top with side tie, Forever 21 cardigan, Alice + Olivia pants with white piping, Loeffler Randall slingbacks. // Below: Love Ya-Ya tunic/minidress, scarf sewn by me, Da Nang cargo jacket, black tights, Loeffler Randall slingbacks]


Ooh. Pretty.

Ain't she pretty? And she's lightning-fast, too. And, of course, affordable.


Up in Smoke

The laptop that I've been using for the past 4+ years has quite literally gone up in smoke. It's not so dramatic as a great blaze of glory, but there was quite a bit of smoke.

Last night I was duly shutting it down when I suddenly heard a "pop," follow by a puff of smoke coming out from a vent on the bottom side of the laptop and and acrid smell of burning insulation. Fortunately, my computer continued to shut down and completed the shutdown, so I think I should be able to safely recover the data on the hard drive. However, I wasn't going to do so by turning the computer back on to transfer files. The computer was pretty much toast.

Under normal circumstances, I would have spent a lot of time researching and I probably would have bought online. Ever since an initial bad experience with buying a computer in a chain electronics store, I tried to avoid said stores like the plague. This time, however, I really didn't have much of a choice. Given the nature of my work and my shuttling back and forth between multiple locations to get work done, I really do need a laptop, and I need it fast--there's no time to wait for shipping. Needing it fast puts me at a great disadvantage in terms of getting a good deal--as a friend said, I was basically buying a computer under duress. Fortunately, because I knew my computer had been on its last legs for a while, I did a little bit of thinking about what I want from my new computer. While the ideas were not as concrete as it was during my first laptop purchase, it nonetheless helped me make a good decision on the fly. More importantly, I got some very wise technical counsel in the form of my friends.

I was advised by some to buy a laptop from Costco due to their generous return policy; if what I bought didn't work out, at least I bought myself some time to do research and find a computer that I really want. I agree that it is a good approach, as a majority of chain electronic stores do not accomodate the try-after-you-buy grace period--a hefty restocking fee is usually slapped on those who are dissatisfied with the product. With these points in mind, I headed to Costco to check out the laptop selection. Unfortunately, the laptops were not appealing to me at all--they were either too big and heavy or small yet expensive.

Next, I followed up on a lead that a tech-expert friend found. He told me about a couple of HP laptops at Office Depot, which would end up being $600 after rebate plus tax. The smaller of the two seemed perfect on paper--it is lightweight, which is an important criterion, yet it has enough juice to do what I need. Better yet, it has all the extras my old computer didn't have, and it costs less. I went to one Office Depot store to see the machine in person, and it is just perfect for me. Unfortunately, it appears to be perfect for a lot of people as well--that store location did not have any in stock other than the floor model, and the same goes for other stores in the area except one store, which had the last laptop in stock. I immediately asked that lone machine be held for me, and drove like mad to get there before the store closed.

I'm completely exhausted by the hours of driving I did (both for work and for chasing down all the necessary computer equipment), as well as the time it took to minimally set the computer up for my use. I will feel a lot better once I can get my old laptop's hard drive in an enclosure and get the important data out. But so far, I'm quite happy with the new laptop. As the icing on the cake, the "special edition" laptop has pretty designs on it, too. Pictures will come later.

[UPDATE: Yay! My hard drive is OK after all. Quite a bit of a scare when I couldn't get data off of it at first, but it turned out to be a couple of bent needles.]


Dime vs. Time

I decided to drive by Philippe's after work today. It was a media frenzy, with lots of news vans parked out front. I knew the line was going to be long, but holy smokes! The line went from the front of the door to around the back through the parking lot, where the line proceeds to spill out onto the sidewalk of the side street. It then goes all the way down the block, and then rounds the corner and goes almost entirely down the very long block.

If I didn't have to go home and do more work, and if time wasn't an issue, it would have been fun to wait around. But all that waiting wouldn't have been worth it in the end.

Tired and hungry, I ended up getting a Whopper. To my chagrin, the price has gone up a lot higher than I thought.

Yes, I am one grumpy foodie tonight.