Posts Categorized: accessories

DIY-plus Fringed Handbag

fringe_handbag

I may have mentioned that I’m pretty useless when it comes to DIY projects. I can do some basic jewelry repairs and overdye the occasional garment, but anything more complex than that? I am more likely to bung it up than I am to make it work. So I buy things that are just right instead of almost-right, knowing that my attempts to “fix” them may render them useless or unwearable.

BUT. Sometimes I get a wild hair and things work out. And this bag represents one of those times, thank goodness. Because I kinda love the look of fringed bags this season, but all of the ones I wanted to buy were in the $300+ range. And I don’t mind ponying up for a quality bag, but since fringe is trendy and I may end up carrying this bag for two years or less, I wanted a cheaper option.

Enter this 100% leather bag, which cost a whopping $35:

orignal bag

Those are the stock product shots because I never expect my DIYs to work and always forget to take “before” shots. This bag has potential, but a couple of things about it bugged me. The slider on the strap seemed like a detail you’d see on a gym bag, not a trendy Boho one. And the plain top zipper opening seemed oddly utilitarian, too.

This photo is post-alterations, but will give you a sense of what the bag looked like in person initially:

fringe bag before

I happen to live in a town with an AMAZING fabrics, notions, and crafting supply store called S.R. Harris. Trinknitty took me there years ago, and I’ve since been back with Audi and Mark as well as my dad. Mark bought leather for his Etsy shop, Dad bought leather for the seats of dining room chairs he was building. So I knew I could get some quality, affordable leather there. I bought a small hide for $19.

Then I took my bag, my hide, and my vision to George’s in Arden Hills. (There is also a great place in St. Paul called George’s that does leather repair. The Arden Hills guys tend to be less busy, so I went to them. If I remember correctly, the two families are related!) They were very patient and game to give my project a try. In fact, the two young ladies and gent behind the counter seemed pretty jazzed to be tackling something other than a re-sole job. I wanted a rough, Boho look to the bag and it turned out that the reverse side of the hide matched the bag’s leather the best. So we mocked it up and I left it in their capable hands.

fringe bag after

They removed the buckle, reattached the strap, and stitched a portion of the hide onto the back of the bag’s opening. The flap conceals the zipper completely and tones down the fringe a bit. But plenty is still visible. These adds/changes cost me an additional $25. So $35 for the bag, $19 for the hide, $25 for the alterations. $79 isn’t super cheap, but it’s far less than I would’ve spent on any of the pre-made bags I’d been eyeing. And this bag is completely unique and exactly what I wanted.

fringe bag before after

I’m extremely pleased with the finished product. I’ll need to be careful of the raw leather flap as it won’t be water- or stain-resistant in any way, but I love how mottled and rough it looks and hope that any additional wear will just make it look cooler. Not a true DIY, I’ll grant you, but about as close as I’m gonna get!

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Reader Request: Transitioning to a More Formal Workplace

dressing conservative workplace

Reader K emailed me this question:

I have a new job at a law firm and a lot of my clothing is a bit too informal and brightly colored and I’m not sure if it will be appropriate. I’d love to see a post about holding on to your your fun and colorful/statement necklace style when you find yourself having to conform and fit into a much more conservative environment (no more sandals at work, no more casual Fridays, no more it’s OK to wear jeans if I just have to in order to make it through the day on a Thursday, more jackets/blazers, less tees, no more cotton sundresses, how to dress up some of your more informal clothing for a pseudo corporate world, etc.)

I pointed K to a few previous posts that you’ll find below, but feel this topic merits its own discussion. On all things law-related, I defer to Corporette so if you’re looking for dressing guidelines that apply to lawyers specifically, do peruse her archive.* But if, like K, you are transitioning from a casual or business casual environment to a more buttoned-up one, here are my suggestions for making your wardrobe work in your new role:

Jackets and blazers make everything seem more formal

OK, maybe not everything. Throwing a blazer over frayed denim shorts and a Mickey Mouse tee might look cute, but it’ll never be office-appropriate. However, any structured jacket or blazer will up the formality ante on most dresses, especially ones that are more substantial than thin, drapey knit or lightweight cotton voile. And adding a blazer to a solid sweater shell and subtly printed skirt will work in many offices, as will pairing a jacket with a colorful printed blouse and dress pants. Structure is key here, though that doesn’t necessarily mean actual suiting. Wool blends are best, but some heavy twills will work. Tweeds are another good option, especially for fall and winter. Steer clear of ponte and knits for conservative workplaces.

One colorful or sparkly piece per outfit

K is hoping to continue expressing her personality through clothing and accessory choices even in this new environment, and that’s definitely possible. A good guideline – especially to start out when you’re not sure how far you can push the dressing envelope – is to limit yourself to one “fun” piece per outfit. This can mean a bright or printed top, a funky necklace, eye-catching shoes, or a patterned skirt. (Probably best to keep your jackets and pants on the tame side, and tread cautiously with dresses.) You can build your outfit around your “fun” piece: Start with a multicolored floral silk shell and add a sleek pant suit, simple pumps, small earrings, subtle necklace (if any), and a watch. The shell is the wild card, everything else is classic and balancing. Don’t ditch all your interesting clothes just because your job has changed. Instead, introduce them a tiny bit at a time.

Bright colors can work in conservative shapes

In most cases, structure trumps shade. While a blazing red jersey wrap dress will look out of place in a formal workplace, a blazing red ponte sheath dress – especially worn with balancing pieces like a blazer and simple pumps – can work. Again, be careful with jackets and pants: Muted colors like burgundy, olive, navy, and aubergine may be acceptable in some offices, but not in others. A citron jacket or pair of emerald green trousers done in fine wool might squeak by, but you’re better off sticking to tops and dresses if you splash out on colorful clothes. Any bright colors you’ve already got in your closet may still be viable if they’re done up in classic, conservative shapes.

Mind your fibers

You may have noticed some fiber name-dropping in this post, and that’s quite intentional. We’ve talked about fiber formality before, and while I don’t have a problem with anyone wearing cashmere with twill I do think that certain fabrics won’t be conservative enough for many offices. Drapey jersey is on virtually every mall store rack, but it’s not substantial or formal enough for the average law firm. And that goes for tops, dresses, and waterfall cardigans alike. Ponte is fabulous for dresses and some skirts, but doesn’t lend enough gravitas to blazers and jackets. In terms of fiber winners, wool tops the list (and remember, tropical weight wool can be worn year-round in many places) and can be worn in any format from pants to skirts to blazers to dresses. Silk and polyester and rayon are all fine for blouses, but avoid drapey jersey and tee shirt/ribbed cotton. For sweaters, just about anything will work since by their very nature sweaters are more formal than tees: Cotton, cashmere, wool, and manmade fibers will all work so long as you’re not going for an intarsia owl or neon floral print. Cotton twill for blazers, skirts, and pants will be questionable in truly conservative offices, but completely fine in others. Look through your closet to see which fabrics and fibers will work in the new, more formal workplace.

Utilize fun accessories but sparingly

I hate to say it, but the average pair of Irregular Choice shoes will get you the side-eye in many offices and enormous rhinestone bib necklaces probably don’t belong in conservative work environments. Less embellished shoes in bright colors, on the other hand? Definitely possible, especially if most of the other outfit elements are classic and quiet. Rhinestones can be totally fine, especially in smaller necklaces and bracelets. Consider tucking sparkly jewelry into a button-front shirt collar and/or inside a blazer to tone it down. Again, if you want to wear a particularly bold accessory go for it, but try to make it the only bold element in your outfit.

Observe and adapt

I’ve held seven office jobs over the course of my career, and I’ve always found that it works well to dress on the conservative/quiet side for the first few weeks on a new job while performing Dress Code Reconnaissance. An office that looks incredibly buttoned-up on the surface may reveal itself to be more accepting the longer you work there. K may feel more comfortable and secure doing lots of neutrals, suiting, and simple shoes for the first few weeks, and then begin incorporating more personality pieces, colors, prints, and patterns once she’s got the lay of the land.

Those are my tips! What else would you tell K? Have you had to transition your work wardrobe from casual or business casual to something more conservative and formal? What carried over? Anything? How can you make fun and funky pieces law-office friendly? Or do you feel like they just can’t make the leap?

*Also my understanding is that office days and court days can have drastically different dress codes. Every lawyer I’ve ever met wears suits to court, period. So in this post, I’m assuming we’re talking about office days.

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Images courtesy Nordstrom left | right

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Reader Request: Wearing Scarves and Necklaces Together

Reader Sarah sent me this question:

I love making and wearing necklaces. Between my own creations and the necklaces I have purchased, I have a large collection of necklaces, and wear a necklace most days. As a result, I have been slow to take up the scarf craze. Lately, I have seen women combining a necklace with a scarf. Can you offer tips on how to do this?

This is a tough one, but I’ll do my best!

Long strand and loosely tied square

scarf and necklace worn together

HOOOWEEE, that’s an oldie from the archive. This represents one of the few times I’ve done a necklace/scarf combo myself, and it looks fun if a little haphazard. I stole the idea from a catalog page and recreated it as closely as I could, right down to the long pearls and vintage-print scarf.

Strand wrapped around bias-folded square

pearlnecklace

I ADORE this trick, which I shamelessly stole from Mai Tai’s Picture Book, a treasure trove of scarf-tying resources. Take a large square scarf, fold into a triangle, roll into a snake. Then drape the snake over the back of your neck, and drape a strand necklace over the scarf. (Doesn’t have to be pearls. Chain works just as well, but you want something that is even in width along the entire length of the necklace.) Wind the necklace around the scarf, fasten in front, and knot over the clasp. There’s a video tutorial if you click through the link to Mai Tai’s.

Long pendant with tied square

Hermes-Locke-Artsy-Grand-Dame

This idea and image hail from Privilege, with commentary that this combo is for the skilled. I love the look but tend to agree: Most scarf/necklace combos are challenging, including this one. But I think a lot of it has to do with unity, assembly, and attitude. Here, there are gold tones in the scarf and necklace, which makes them harmonious (unity). There is space between the scarf and necklace, but they overlap a bit, too (assembly). And the scarf is tied jauntily and a bit messily, it’s wearer happy and confident in her accessorization (attitude). I’ve also seen a variation of this using a longer rectangle or infinity scarf looped large around the neck. Works best with a chunky pendant like this.

Looped scarf and looped necklace

scarf-necklace

These are actually single unit accessories sold (in 2011) by Anthropologie … but they can be re-created using your own scarves and necklaces. The easiest route is to use a long rectangular scarf: To create the two end looks (white and coral scarves), loop the scarf around your neck and let both ends hang long. Tie a loose slipknot toward the middle of each tail. Thread a lightweight strand necklace with a clasp through both openings. Do this several times until you’ve got as many draped strands as you’d like. Fasten the necklace inside one of the slipknots to cover the clasp. If the whole contraption feels insecure, knot the scarf tails together.

To create the center look, follow the same steps, but rotate the necklace portion to the side. In both cases a lightweight necklace with drape will work best. Chunky beads will weigh down the scarf and pull the whole thing out of whack. (Believe me, these pre-made combos would do that, too. This is an option that will take lots of readjusting throughout the day.)

Scarf grouped with outer layer and a distinct necklace

scarf and necklace

More from Mai Tai. She really is brilliant. Here, the slim scarf serves as a kind of false trim or lapel for her cardigan, and she adds a large, statement-y necklace in the space between. This could also work with a blazer or duster, and will probably look best if scarf length and outer layer length are close. Since you’re grouping the cardigan or jacket visually with the scarf, long dangling scarf ends will be distracting.

Draped chains and looped necklace

ScarfNecklace_lg

This is a slightly closer-to-the-neck version of the first option, and actually comes from instructions for sewing a scarf-necklace combo. But this look could be re-created with a cowboy-tied square scarf and a multi-strand chain necklace.

And that’s all I’ve got! Anyone else a whiz and creating scarf-necklace combos? How do you wear YOURS together? Share links and tutorials if you’ve got ‘em!

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