Exercising my fashion muscles: Robert 2.0!

12 days of hometown bliss, followed by a week of extended family reunion, sparkles galore, and the crowning of Allison Cook, the new Miss Oregon 2013 has me in a hazy and happy state of mind. Alas, out of pageant  Narnia and into the real world I have come. While hoping to be met with the warm-fuzzy feeling of being home, I was instead met with a hot-sweltering feeling of our 95 degree temps this week. *gasps for air* Needless to say, I was chomping at the bit to get outta there! And what better way to do that then some sangria at lunch followed by a closet overhaul and styling session?!

Meet Robert:

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This eligible bachelor completed his 35th year in orbit last January, and now works as a Client Manager for Wold Consulting, a tech-based AMC. A friend of many, this karaoke rockstar loves to spend his free time enjoying nature, CrossFit-ing, and of course enjoying good conversation around town at one of the many scrumptious restaurants Portland has to offer. Robert has taken a hold of his lifestyle in the past 12 months and with that comes time to bring in some new fresh energy into his wardrobe. He is looking great and once I’m done with him, will be shaming Austin Powers with his spike in mojo. 

First thing: closet overhaul. 

dun dun dunnnnnnnnn!!!!!!

To get started, we headed straight for Rob’s house to see what we could keep and what would be good bonfire material. And forget bonfire– we’re going to have  a forest fire!!!!!!

Haha just kidding, Rob. It wasn’t so bad, but there was some intervention. To give you a brief recap, here are the things we pitched:

– shirts with decals, excessive embroidery, and arguably tasteless decorative patches

– clothing items that were too big. A nice problem to have for someone who is getting into shape!

– stretched out or worn-looking garments

– things that weren’t getting worn such as a sport coat with big ol’ shoulder patches and gifted items that didn’t reflect his personality

– “repaired” jeans (a.k.a. the inner handyman in Rob patched holes in the rear of well-loved pants)

And in his words, anything that screamed “douche caboose”.

Check out this massive stack of no-no’s! It’s like they’ve seen the light and are about to cross over into the great Buffalo Exchange in the sky……

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We did keep some things, and got a good idea of what the next steps were. 

Things we kept:

– business professional attire. Rob already has a good handle on what is appropriate for work, but we did find a couple items that will require some tailoring. 

– a couple long-sleeved casual shirts that stood out as a great style guideline for what suited Rob’s personal life- casual, comfortable, and still contemporary.

– jeans that didn’t need repairing and one light blue-grey pair made the cut, even though it had minor repairs

– a t-shirt that says “More Cowbell” with a picture of a cowbell. 1) because I’m not totally evil and 2) because Rob has a great Christopher Walken impression and an indefinite amount of Halloween parties in his future. 

Some of the things we found just needed tweaking in the way they were being worn. For example, a long sleeved button-up went from stuffy to relaxed when we left an additional button unbuttoned at the top and rolled up the sleeves. A unique linen sport coat was too thin to be worn with a traditional button-up, but looked noticeably fly with just a grey v-neck t-shirt underneath.

Shoes were the next thing we took a look at before we took off into the burbs for some treasure hunting. One of the first things I notice about a person is the way they complete themselves with shoes. What we keep on our feet is, more often than not, a direct reflection of our lifestyle. It is no surprise that Rob is a practical guy, so what I found was pretty basic. The black pair, the brown pair, the casual tennis shoe, and a couple randoms that were utility related. These are fine, but for someone who is looking to do better, there was room for improvement. Two brands dominated this footwear collection: Converse and Clark’s. By anyone’s standards, these are both brands that boast well-made shoes, but in the pursuit of refinement, fall short of what will take a man’s presence to the next level. 

Here’s what I mean.

Exhibit A-  the Clark’s:

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A little worn and a erring on the clunky side, these shoes fit the bill of an Average Joe, but were quickly put to shame as we found some awesome, albeit dusty, boots buried in the depths of the closet.

Exhibit B- the upgrade:

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Obviously on the left is the clunky Clark’s shoe, and on the right we have the hidden treasure. They are similar in shine and both have the capacity to be worn with jeans. Rob is ready to graduate from the school of thought that just any black shoe will do. Don’t get me wrong, something as practical and well-made as the Clark’s shoe isn’t bad. It is, however, not the best option in menswear for seeking a polished look.  

After we ransacked  through years of accumulated garments, we had a pretty good game plan.

1. Find some casual looks that reflected Rob’s personality and tastes and fit him properly.

2. Upgrade footwear to reflect a mature and evolved sense of style.

3.  Stay realistic with budget. Fortunately there is much less turnover in fashion for men than women, so we were likely to have some luck with quality brands even if we shopped the department discount stores. 

One of the perks of cleaning out old clothes is often finding hidden money in pockets, and fortunately we found a little extra spending cash to take with us on our adventure….

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Our first stop was Saks off Fifth! Located in the Bridgeport shopping development, Saks off Fifth offers discounted items from the high-end department retailer Saks Fifth Avenue. We rummaged through racks and racks of clothing, but weren’t as overwhelmed with choices as we had hoped. It would have been really easy to dress Rob up like a fashionisto, but my task wasn’t to dress a mannequin, it was to dress a personality. Rob’s only request was color, and with some luck we found a great orange and blue plaid button-up. It wasn’t too loud, the cotton was soft, and it definitely had an underlying “Portland” feel. 

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Shirts that met our criteria were scarce, so I pushed the envelope a bit in our hunt for color and found some deep green denim pants. A reluctant Rob took them to the dressing room, and came out striking model poses. Needless to say, I felt pretty good about that one. 🙂

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These two made the cut, and new threads in hand, we called it a “win” and moved on to the next stop!

Following Saks off Fifth,  we went to Nordstrom Rack in Beaverton. Another discounted department retailer, the Rack is one of God’s gifts to humankind, so we were quite hopeful for more success.

This experience was a little more hunt-and-peck, but there was much luck to be had. Rob took a mountain of clothing into the dressing room with the focuses being black jeans, more casual shirts, and with my encouragement, some colored, cargo-pocket-less shorts. The hunt had become more intense at this point, and I was getting a little more ruthless. I did spare him, however, from the chick repellant  that is cheetah printed menswear. 

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Umpteen pairs of jeans, countless ill-fitting button-ups, and a smattering of unflattering t-shirts later, my head was nearly falling off from shaking “no”. The Mount Everest of fabric had provided little inspiration, and patience was dwindling. With what good fortune was left in the day, we came across two must-haves. I’m not a huge fan of short-sleeved button ups for men, but we found one that might have changed my mind about them, for now. A dark grey denim with a faint sheen, it is definitely a sharp looking shirt for drinks with friends. In addition, we found a pair of solid blue cargo-pocket-less shorts that not only were a great deal, but they also added some color, and will look great with the shirt from Saks off Fifth. 

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The biggest accomplishment from Nordy’s Rack came in a pair. That’s right, we even found some shoes that are a serious upgrade! Slim, versatile, and even a little rugged, these are practical in more ways than one. 

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Not bad, eh? 

On that note, we called it a day. We were a little exhausted, but feeling fantastic with 1 long sleeve, 1 short sleeve, 1 pair of green pants, 1 pair of blue shorts, and 1 pair of shoes!!! Not only was he able to add five new boosts to his post-purge closet, he was able to get a variety of garment styles that are cohesive with his personality and lifestyle

As I wandered around these stores and shook my head incessantly, thoughts seemed to come loose and I pondered again my philosophy on fashion. It has become increasingly evident to me in the past few years how crucial visual presentation can be in wholly communicating oneself to others. In other words, I don’t think anyone would look at a man in a three piece suit and say “wow, I bet he paints bird feeders and lives in a nudist colony.” If he did, then the life inside his mind truly wouldn’t reflect the way he communicated himself visually. This is, of course, extreme, but generally people want to be understood. It may be the case that people get derailed somewhere and lose fluency in visual language as it evolves the way verbal language does. Nobody says “all that and a bag of chips” for the same reasons people don’t wear Birkenstocks and Hansen tees with as much frequency as in the 90’s. Shopping with Robert felt less like a scene out of Clueless and more like a visual communication tutoring session. If you met him now, at first glance you would be able to tell he was a practical guy that also has personality. He is relaxed, but active. He is mature, but not old. He is rational, and not lazy. There is an endless combination of fabrics, cuts, and colors that could tell you exactly those things about Robert, which makes things a headache for some but a fun game for me! 

I had a ball exercising my fashion muscles and helping Rob feel good about what he’s got goin’ on! I think he is pretty stoked too..unless of course he is lying…. and hates everything… and then I’ll just scream and kick and break into his house and replace every piece of clothing with these!!!

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MUAHAHAHAHAha….hahah….haha…

Wait… wouldn’t that actually be awesome?

😉

Anyways, HUGE thank you to Robert for letting me play “What Not to Wear” and agreeing to let me put it in my blog 🙂 AND a GIGANTOR thank you  to my faithful readers who have been bugging me to get back to writing– your kind words have me more motivated than ever!!!! 

xo

 

 

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My week: fashion show pics and a word on pageant chicks

Currently,  I am sitting on the front steps of my apartment building in a shady spot amongst an impressive amount of potted plants. About two weeks ago, my neighbors decided to add a couple potted plants to our barren front porch, and then they got a little enthusiastic. No matter, however, because I just get to sit here in my own little botanical garden and reflect on what an full week it’s been!

To my loyal readers, I owe you an apology because I am a dirty, rotten liar who said that I would post last week, but then I just started having too much fun! I realized I hadn’t left Portland in 3 months and I’m the type of gal who likes to find an excuse to skip town once a month. Needless to say I didn’t realize how crazy I was going until I started to unplug for Miss Oregon 2013 Pageant Workshop in Seaside. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

REWIND! 

*eeeeerereeeeeeeeereereeeeeerereeeeeee* (rewind noise) … wait, does anyone even know what rewinding sounds like anymore?

TUESDAY!

I went to the fashion show at Produce Row! It was so cool to see the two highlighted designers Brady Lange Rief. But, my iPhone is fired.

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It just couldn’t focus! So I’ll leave it to the professionals and include links to the photos.

I was a HUGE fan of the fearless makeup and the pops of color. Here was my favorite look from Brady Lange :

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It’s modern, it’s trendy, and it takes me right to the tropics! I think it would be best accessorized with a Mai tai….. 😉

And check out this from Rief! 

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Again, those color pops get me every time. The pleated pant is such a wonderfully chic way to be relaxed and adds personality with the tangerine. Those pants were made for struttin’!

There’s more pics where that came from! click here ! 

WEDNESDAY!

Pendleton rounded up a huge crowd at Ron Tom’s and it was so big that it sold out!! I almost thought I was going to have to turn around and call it a night, but the fashion gods saw fit to let me in and it was a perfect way to spend the evening. Pendleton Woolen Mills is famous for their signature bold prints and high quality wool, but in 2011 they broke the mold and developed a line that stays true to their Western inspirations, but brings a bit of city flair. It’s called The Portland Collection. They unleashed their 3rd annual this year at Ron Tom’s on Wednesday and the scene could not have been truer to Portland-chic form. A killer band set an upbeat, yet moody tone and then models began to appear walking down the sidewalk through the floor-to-ceiling windows, in through the front door, and through the maze of people. They stopped on a platform and did their turn so all could ogle the immaculate fabrics, construction, and Portland-worthiness of the Pendleton designs.  

Here are a few highlights! ImageImageImage

For more photos click here! 

For more info on the Portland Collection click here! 

I think that dress/vest look (picture 1) was my fave. Femme, but ready for anything!

THURSDAY!

Firstly, I must announce that my first article was hot off the press today. I covered the Fashion Forward Show from Portland Sewing on Saturday, and had a ball. You can read it here!

Unfortunately, I was unable to make Thursday’s show of mystery designers. I had textiles class, and a girl can only fit so much fashion into one day!!! The textiles class is truly fantastic, and I’m learning more than I can retain. It is so crazy to think that cloth is one of the oldest materials known to man, and is a definite blogspiration. I won’t go on a textile rant today, but keep an eye out because it may be one of the more relevant topics I cover in the near future. 

FRIDAY! (and SATURDAY! and SUNDAY!)

After a week of cramming Cartesian philosophy, I took a midterm and promised myself a mani/pedi to relax before a weekend of pageant mayhem! And let’s face it, sometimes the best thing you can do is just paint your fingernails bright purple. 

Being a retired Miss Oregon, it is really important to me that I continue to give time and effort to the girls pursuing their Miss America dream. I learned so much from the formers during my journey, and really got to experience this fun privilege for the first time on the other side! A huge part of preparation takes place 5 weeks before the annual competition week and consists of a 3 day workshop in Seaside. It provides the girls with bonding time with the other contestants, critiques to motivate and educate them on their potential, and everyone (parents, volunteers, and contestants) gets to learn more about the current Miss Oregon and how she has worked not only to win, but to earn her title as “role model”. (And Nichole has done all that and more!!)  It’s an intense weekend, but it was an incredible recharge! But I might still be on a sugar high…. the best candy on the coast also happens to be the livelihood of the pageant directors who double as my Oregon parents 🙂 nom nom nom… I came away from the weekend feeling reenergized and with new purpose. It is so uplifting to put a microscope on a human experience and be reassured that we are all just people with the common goal of living life with intention. For the women immersed in the Miss Oregon program, their intentions are such good ones. Regardless of hairdo, gown, shape, size, or background, each one is so excited to give fearlessly. It’s an awesome reminder of how I’ve come to be the woman I am today.

I’m rambling, but I think you get the point. I left feeling like I had just been plugged back in. To see these women pursuing their dreams with such devotion reminds me that no goal is too big and hard work will absolutely pay off, even if it takes you on a different path. I’m no longer gunning for a crown, but I’ve got some big, fashionable fish to fry! Thanks, ladies, for inspiring me so much 🙂

One of the cornerstones of the Miss America Organization is “style” along with “scholarship, service, and success”. Style? I like style! So you can imagine that I’ve really been buzzing about how I can lend an eye and some advice in this department. Another blogspiration  for another day, but I definitely have the wheels turning. 

Alas it’s MONDAY!

Other than a little education and catching up with the blogosphere, I dusted, vacuumed, scrubbed, washed, folded, and of course also popped n’ locked it in my kitchen. Twerkin’ n workin’. 

Insert a mental picture here.

Whatever you do, don’t Google that. 

 Lots to come this week! Keep in touch 🙂

xo

And in the beginning there was Burger King: a long a** look at my design history

*disclaimer* this got a little lot long, but it is the kind of thing you only write once. It’s good to reflect on where you come from sometimes, and remember why you are who you are.

When I was about 13, I inherited a beautiful sewing machine, easily from the first half of the 20th century. I didn’t know what to do with the thing, but was mesmerized by the sparkly, mint-green lacquer and the sturdy curvature of the body. I started taking sewing lessons from an old lady named Elizabeth in the basement of her home. We did the basics. A pincushion. An apron. Decorative pillows. Then high school happened, I started finding less time until I attended the annual fashion show at a place downtown I’d not really heard of before called “Central Campus.” Turns out, it was a Des Moines Public School hub for high school students with trade/technician education, advanced placement courses, childcare education, and fashion design. I went with my good friend Laura and I think I drooled my braces off.

There were bright colors, loud music, creative outfits, and cool older girls modeling their own designs!

Yes, please!

My mom helped me find out how to get into the 2 year program, I interviewed, and was accepted.

I vacillated for a couple weeks, realizing I would be facing giving up my one true love of show choir for all of my junior year…

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Check out that pouf, y’all. #glorydays

I digress! Anyways, I said a sorrowful “see ya later” to my sparkles and heels and I went for it, and never looked back.

I was the only one from my high school, which sits on a comfortable part of town. At Central Campus, I was attending with students from all over the Des Moines metro area. My class was entirely girls, which was fun, and I got to know some incredible talent and genuinely warm personalities. Half the day, everyday, we would sew, listen to top 40 or country music, cuss like sailors, and laugh for hours.  (Cuss like sailors? I didn’t say that, I’m a lady…) 

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I learned how to sew clothes. We started with the basics: boxer shorts and standard shirts, dresses, and pants. My patience has always been a problem, and the learning curve is steep, but I got the ability to at least produce things to prevent myself from getting public nudity charges.

During the first year, we worked from patterns, and showed off an item of each category at the year-end fashion show. Categories were casual wear, evening wear, sleep/loungewear, children’s wear, avante garde, and one other category I am totally forgetting right now.  Many pics have been lost from the first fashion show, but here the only pics worth your time:

Ill-fitting funeral wear:

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Awkward prom:

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And, my favorite, BK Loungewear:

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Senior year was when the real fun began. We were given more challenging projects such as working with a partner (which anyone working in design knows takes extra effort) to take ugly fabric and manipulate it to make it look decent:

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(The only way out was to make our own pattern on top of the nasty floral. You can’t even see it…haha)

Deconstructing an awful old dress and making it into something new:

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(I’m heartbroken I don’t have the picture of this transformation, but it began as a poofy-sleeves eighties short dress that was black with a fluffy skirt and spits of pink, turquoise, and purple meshy netting. The collar was my favorite part, and you can’t really tell but the back is a whole bunch of 4 petaled flowers simply tacked in the center. The edges were left raw for texture.)

The most exciting part of the program came at the end of year two: senior collections. So skipping ahead 12 months, I presented my collection: Personal Day Couture.

Inspired by sunny days, femininity, natural fibers, and a touch of elegance, I developed a collection designed for a style-loving lady breathing in the fresh, spring air.

The requirements:

Must create 5 looks, and draw them on croquis figures

Must have designed and constructed one garment for each look. (Some items were aloud to be purchased for the sake of time and cost. Before you are less impressed, keep in mind these are high schoolers with extra curriculars, home school requirements, jobs, and varying incomes. Plus most designers don’t make their own stuff!)

Develop patterns

Create cost reports

Find coordinating music for their show

Recording a video talking about the collection

and select models (from the class)

I give you the highlights- complete with hammed-up commentary:

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Wouldn’t be complete w/o high school hair…

Here we have the lovely Alexandra wearing a lightweight seersucker button-down tank with elastic at the bottom hem to give it that “bubble” look. Belt made of a cotton khaki-colored fabric with sparkles to give it that “couture” pow. 

**A note on those buttons. There is/was (I’m not sure) extremely cool and very small button shop in downtown Chicago that my mom and I stumbled upon during one trip. I found a 3 inch diameter wooden button that screamed of flair and bought a couple for the hell of it. They were part of my inspiration for my collection, and my fashion peer and friend, Shelby’s, grandfather heard I was looking for more and volunteered his time to make me a whole bunch to use! They were perfect and absolutely beautiful!! My mom wants them but I’m saving them for my next collection  ;)**

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Next the ultra-chic Alyssa wearing a tailored tube dress with pre-frayed hem and floral neckcessory complete with custom wooden buttons. Vintage shoes, but she’s makin’ em look fuh-reshhhh.

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Monet is looking sassy in these lightweight sparkle khaki shorts. The drawstring, deep pockets, and elastic, bubble hem on these bottoms makes Monet look ready for a playdate in the sun. Shirt was an awful denim mens shirt I altered for this outfit. Shoes from her personal wardrobe.

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Here’s Rachel, and that stance means business. Unfortunately, this is probably one of my better pieces in the collection, but you can’t really see it. It was a navy blue sweater/jacket made from a stretchy knit. Again, it had the bubble bottom but was not fastened in the front and was lined with the same material. Sleeves also had elastic so she could wear it anywhere on her arm. The pearls gave a little polish to this unstructured garment.

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There’s Mel! I love this sassy lady. She is werkin’ a skirt made of the same material as the sweater above. It had tucks in addition to the bubble skirt to give it extra body. Her button is on the back of the custom hat band.

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And here I am! The designers always came out in their final outfits, and it was typically their “baby” of the collection. This two-piece motif is a white stretch tube dress underneath a denim over-dress (is that what it’s called? like an overcoat but it’s a dress? still don’t know) I used differing shades of denim to maintain the relaxed feel of the collection and gave it an edge with an exposed zipper. This outfit is ideal for picnics that involve caviar.

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Always one to love back detailing, I lined the spine with the signature wooden buttons.

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And there you have it! I was awarded “Most Cohesive Collection” for my consistence in shape, color, and texture. I’m quite critical of it, but for what tools I was given, I think it is an immense jump start, at least, to using my mind.

That’s where I left off.

I moved halfway across the country from my sewing machine and had some living to do. I took a break from fashion, not feeling that I was competitive enough to make it in the industry. I wasn’t mentally dedicated or prepared enough to spend umpteenthousand dollars on art school. So I did some things on my bucket list:

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You know… life stuff.

I did get my hands on a sewing machine once to design a Lady Gaga costume for a sorority sister in a fraternity spoof pageant:

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(she won, of course 😉 teehee)

But other than that, life took off. I didn’t sew. My closet over this period of time consisted of windbreakers, college sweats, overly-mature business attire, and some sparkly pageant gowns. All of these are wonderful on any given occasion, but were worn with the intention of fitting a bill; meeting a requirement.

The turning point happened this last winter. In cold, snowy Iowa over Christmas break, I was back with my beautiful green sewing machine. It looked so pristine next to the window against the white backdrop that it screamed “COME PLAY!” I needed an outfit to wear out on a special night out with friends, and nothing in my wardrobe or in stores was satisfying my style appetite. So I got to work; running to the fabric store, looking up outfits I wanted to recreate, draping, cutting, pinning. I was caught in a time warp, and had melted into my project. I felt great— no. I felt electric.

The inspirations:

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The result:

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This, which boasted faulty construction, raw edges on the inside, a slightly askew zipper and makeshift cups to contour. Not to mention an unforecasted red velvet snowfall all over my bedroom.

Wearing it was a total blast. It was mine, it was an expression of my inspiration and not just something from the mall that sort of captured my ideas. I had, as Oprah would say, an “ah-ha!” moment. I realized I hadn’t been exercising my creativity muscles. I missed the touch of the fabric, the whirr of the machine, and the first breath of fresh air when a project is completed. What I loved the most was the pressure of integrity; I knew what measures I had to take to make the physical creation as thorough as my concept, and that takes perseverance.

Now, I’m taking a few steps back, but already feel like I’ve taken twice that many leaps forward.  I’ve got a new machine, am taking new classes, am meeting people with shared interests, and I hope to meet more. I’m reaching out to share an experience that I’m ecstatic to jump into. I’m retracing my steps under new guidance to fill gaps in my knowledge, and to patch together my skill sets so that I can continue to reap these ideas I continually sew(oh no not a pun! , even if that means making yet another introductory pair of pajama pants…

And now we’re back at the beginning. We are back where I found you, and back where I welcomed you to my journey. Perhaps it makes more sense now why I have chosen to spend my time on a “fashion” blog. I’ve had to ask myself: in a sea of trend-seeking, aspiring e-starlets, what’s one more blog with pictures? And this is why I chose to write this long a$$ blog post. (Pardon my French.. s’il vous plait) I needed to answer that question for myself, and I wanted to share my diary pages, as promised.

I’m going inside, looking at my own mismatched seams and raw edges, and saying

ah-ha!

For now, they are right where they belong.