Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fashion: It's in Your Jeans

A good pair of dark-wash skinny jeans is the definition of a wardrobe staple: with flats or boots, they’re sleek and the color is about as close to professional as denim gets. Even if skinny isn’t your cut (and let’s face it, we don’t all have Alessandra Ambrosio’s hips), chances are you’ve been on a hunt for quality Levi’s.

My issues with jeans are two-fold: (1) I don’t like ultra-low waistbands because plumber’s crack and muffin top are terrible euphemisms for scary real-world phenomena and (2) jeans are never, ever long enough for me.

I can rarely recommend one brand or style as my across-the-board favorite, but after going to the Gap, Levi’s, J Crew, every thrift and consignment place in town and even trying on some ridiculous $200 denim at department stores, I seem to have hit on the Holy Grail.

Urban Outfitter’s BDG Cigarette skinny jeans are the only ones I tried on—and believe me, I tried dozens—to have both a regular rise waist and a 34” inseam, standard. Better yet, they’re under $60 and a little generous across all styles (I’d recommend going one waist size down).

The original Cigarette jeans I bought were made of fairly thick denim and have held up well, but I also invested in the High-Rise style, which is made of a softer, more legging-like material. They’re surprisingly comfortable for high-wasted pants and they make it look like you could serve hors d'oeuvres off that derriere. Fear not! Flattering, ultra-long jeans do exist. I suggest stocking up.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Street Style: Jasmine, 5' 10"


Jasmine wasn’t rocking a poncho at the Dolores Park fashion show, but she did dish to the San Francisco Chronicle about her favorite hand-me-down: a pink Victoria’s Secret bra. Of course her fashion favorite was vivid—just look at her sassy, blue-tipped hair!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Event: Love Me My Poncho

My first time on a catwalk was two weeks ago in Dolores Park, strutting against the wind, cape flying behind me, on a long piece of red construction paper. The “celebrity” judges gave me a score of five stars, check plus, and 10,000.

My friends and I were in the park for Love Me, Love My Poncho—yes, a poncho-themed fashion show and clothing swap. This swap was much more informal (and quirky) than the Swap Lulu’s event—the twenty or so of us put down blankets, laid out our wares, and had a great time chatting, haggling, and trying on. There were quite a few tall and/or plus-sized participants, so I walked away a happy woman with handmade jewelry, yoga pants, and a pair of size 11 boots.

As we were hashing it out, Sarah Adler from the SF Chronicle snapped photos and interviewed us about our favorite hand-me-downs and “the one piece of clothing that got away.” You can read her full column here. A photographer from SF Indie Fashion was also on hand, but she hasn’t uploaded her photos yet; I’ll be sure to let you know when she does!
The main event was a red carpet catwalk, accompanied by the hoots of the crowd and the snap of camera shutters (having a PBR beforehand was highly encouraged). My friend Megan and I shimmied down the runway—her in a bright orange knit poncho and me (cheating a bit) in a navy blue cape-coat. We didn’t win the grand prize, but when the show was over we headed to one of my favorite vintage and costume shops—Idol Vintage on 16th St.—a fitting reward for my fashion debut.
P.S.: As promised, here are photos by the lovely Aura O'Brien of SF Indie Fashion:
The gent in the tiny hat won the day.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fashion: Clothing Swaps

If you’re like me and you tend to amass clothing from thrift stores, giveaways, or hand-me-downs (I believe the technical term is “pack-rat”), you probably feel the need to clean out your closet every so often. Clothing swaps are a good way to recycle your wardrobe and have an awesome girl’s night out with your most competitive compadres.

I took a good friend of mine to one a few months back sponsored by the online shopping site Lulu’s. There was a $20 admission fee and each participant was asked to bring a canvas bag of clothes, shoes, and accessories to trade in. After a few glasses of wine, we were ushered upstairs to a loft space where Lulu’s reps had arranged a rack of new clothes from their label—with exactly one piece for each girl in attendance. Needless to say, it was a free-for-all. No hair pulling or linebacker tackles—luckily—and I walked away with this adorable red sundress:


Then, we headed downstairs where the organizers had arranged our clothes and a few more Lulu’s items on folding tables by category: tops, bottoms, purses, dresses, etc. After a few tense minutes of waiting and strategizing, they threw open the curtain on the main floor and 40 otherwise polite, well-groomed women turned into a stampeding herd of wildebeests.

The strategy seemed to be to grab as many promising-looking items as possible and hoard them in a corner while trying them on. This wasn’t exactly in the spirit of share and share alike, but with a combination of fast-fingered grabbing from the tables and wheeling-and-dealing with the try-on folks, I still walked away with two blouses, a leather jacket, a pair of size-11 vintage heels, and two pairs of earrings. My size 4 friend and I looked out for things for one another along the way and even did some final swapping when we got home. I definitely learned for next time!

Be prepared: stylist Sara Zlotnik offers tactics for scoring sweet loot in the chaos of the swap meet. If this sounds like your cup of tea, I encourage you to check out the Clothing Swap site and Meetup group (though they don’t update their events listings very often). I found the Swap Lulu’s event through Yelp, which is always a good place to start, as are the SF Indie Fashion calendar and Refinery 29. There’s also a site where you can trade one-on-one with other swappers—no event necessary. I’ve already got a bag started for my next swap—care to join me?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

DIY: Un-Seam-ly

Sewing is a lost domestic art. My mom used to make some of her clothing from scratch and she’s still my go-to for questions about how to modify store-bought items. She enrolled me in a sewing class when I was nine or ten and I’m grateful that I now know how to sew both by hand and by machine.

It’s so important to understand sewing basics; there’s no need to throw out that shirt just because it’s missing a button or those jeans just because they’ve got a little hole! Plus, you can modify your clothes so that they better fit your body type or pick up a salvage item at a place like Jeremy’s and have fun with a fixer-upper. For tall people, there are a couple of basic, indispensible sewing techniques that I promise will make your life easier.

1. Moving buttons

Knowing how to remove and reattach buttons is essential, and it’s nice to have the option of moving buttons on a pea coat or sweater to make a little extra room. Plus, once you know how to thread a needle, you can also fix any little garment holes or snags you may have accumulated.

Here’s a slightly better explanation from TLC about how to knot the thread when you’re done sewing the button on: Insert the needle under the button stitches on the backside of the garment. Pull the thread partially through, forming a loop. Insert the needle through the loop, and pull the thread snugly to form a knot.

Ready for something a little more involved?

2. Taking down a hem

Pants too short? Let out the existing hem on a pair of pants and create a new one. This straight-forward article covers the easiest way to take down a hem-by simply measuring a new one and sewing it in place. If you find that you need to take the hem down almost completely (or if you just want to make your alterations look professional), you might want to "face" the hem with extra material. This demo is really thorough and easy to follow, if a little tedious to watch:

For you sewing experts out there ready to tackle larger creative projects, check out Sewing Tutorials and Sew Mama Sew for great tips and ideas.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fasion: Tall is the New Petite

Gap Tall

It’s fairly easy to find “petite” lines in stores, with items tailored to that body type. Luckily, outlets are beginning to realize that tall women need a corresponding line of their own. Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, J Crew, and Alloy offer “tall” versions of many of their classic tops, dresses, jeans, skirts, and slacks. These specialty pieces feature longer inseams, hems, and sleeves and a lower waistline on blouses to accommodate a longer torso.

I bought this gorgeous violet top from Banana Republic and I tried it on in both regular and tall; the tall version really did fit better on my waist and bust—it didn’t ride up at the waist or gap in the front. I’ve also tried Gap’s “long and lean” jeans and I find that they fit well and have generous inseams.

BonusHere’s a little fashion nugget, just for fun: ilovemyheight.com. A group of four tall women have created a t-shirt line just for us, with funny, height-centric sayings front and center. My favorites: “Notice: You Must Be 6’5” To Ride,” “A guy loves a girl he can look up to,” and a fortune cookie that reads “Short man who dance with tall woman get bust in mouth.”

Friday, January 6, 2012

Street Style: Lindsey, 5'8"


Lindsey was selling handmade jewelry and headbands when I met her at the Berkeley Flea Market. She uses natural stones in her creations, and her quirkiness and love of nature come through both in her designs and in her fashion sense. I really like her knit headscarf and—tall ladies take note—don’t be afraid to rock a full-length printed coat like she does.

You can check out Lindsey’s jewelry at One Love Gypsy.

Fashion: Big Foot Blues


It’s a law of nature: women love shoes. However, with size 12M feet (size 42-43 European), I have a love/hate relationship with shoe shopping. Sizes 10 and below are relatively easy to find, but what happens when you’re off the charts? You can go to a specialty site like Samanta, Marmi, or TaKera (founded by WNBA player Asjha Takera Jones) and drop a couple hundred dollars on custom footwear. Some high-end shoemakers, including Steve Madden and Doc Martin’s, also carry up to size 11 or 12, but again, you’d better be prepared to invest.

Luckily, after much searching, I think I’ve finally found a good roster of stores and websites that stock sizes 11 and up at a reasonable price point. As far as in-person shopping goes, Ross, Target, Jeremy’s, and the Nordstrom Rack all carry large sizes. I also love Torrid’s shoes and boots, though they only come in wide width and wide calf (I usually solve this with an insole).

Online retailers offer a wider selection than stores do, but unfortunately, many of the Web catalogues I buy from are geared toward much older women. Woman Within, Roaman’s, and Old Pueblo Traders all have diamonds in the rough, but you’ll have to wade through a few oxfords and nurses’ moccasins. I just bought these wedge ankle boots from Woman Within and they’ve been attached to my feet for the past week. It didn’t hurt that I got 40% off through one of their frequent online offers (you can look in the site banner for a promo code or sign up for their email list to get one). Two other great sites I just discovered are Maryland Square and Alonai, with a bit younger and trendier esthetic.

I’ve also had some luck at thrift and consignment stores, though of course it’s hit-or-miss. Community Thrift in the Mission District occasionally carries large sized shoes, as do Crossroads Trading Co. and Buffalo Exchange, but it all depends on what people bring in.

Don’t be afraid to shop in the men’s section either, especially in second-hand stores. I’ve found some awesome men’s wingtips, tuxedo shoes, and leather boots and I wear ‘em with pride.

So, where’s your shoe shopping sweet spot?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fashion: Skirt the Issue

When you have mile-long legs, finding skirts long enough to be flattering is a guessing game. Let’s demystify the skirt chase:

Mini-skirts: Some commentators say that tall women shouldn’t wear short skirts. I call B.S. It all depends on your level of personal comfort and your venue—yes at the bar, no at the office. In my opinion, the ideal place for a short skirt to hit is mid-thigh (not so short that when you bend over you give the actual skirt chasers a heart attack). Here’s an example from ASOS:

Screen Shot 2011-12-16 at 10.02.36 AM

Bear in mind that this is an average height model, so you have to mentally raise the hemline another couple of inches if you’re above 5’8”-9”.

Pencil skirts: When I wear pencil skirts to work I find myself constantly scooting them down to avoid the skirt version of “waiting for the flood.” There’s some debate about the proper length for this style—I’ve seen skirts anywhere from an inch or two above the knee to completely covering the knee. I try to aim for a length that just grazes the top of my knee. Here’s an example from the “tall” line at Banana Republic:

Pencil skirt 1

Pencil Skirt 2

Calf-length skirts: I love this cut, especially since I tend to look for vintage-inspired styles. This really is a length that only works on tall women; if you don’t have long enough legs to carry it off, you could wind up looking stumpy. But even tall girls have to be wary of “stumpifacation”—the easiest way around this is to pair the skirt with heels. Here are some great examples from ASOS (notice the platform heels on the models):

Screen Shot 2011-12-16 at 10.31.14 AMScreen Shot 2011-12-16 at 10.31.33 AM Screen Shot 2011-12-16 at 10.31.24 AM

Asymmetrical skirts: Another great thing about long legs is that you have a grand canvas on which to try some unusual cuts. Long, flowing skirts with dramatic slits or interesting wraps add dimension and movement to your silhouette. Here are two styles I’m dying to try from Urban Outfitters:Screen Shot 2011-12-15 at 4.48.56 PMScreen Shot 2011-12-15 at 4.48.43 PM

And then there’s the ever-elegant maxi-skirt, which I’ll be covering soon in a post all its own!