Meet the Models

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Totally '80s: How to Rock the Retro Look

Sometimes it seems like the most prominent characteristic of fashion in the 2010s is that everything's retro. Over the last few years, we've seen a revival of fashion elements from the 1970s, 1920s (thanks, Downton Abbey!), 1990s, and 1980s. No matter which decade's -- these or others -- style speaks most to you, one of the most important lessons for a fashionista in 2015 is how to rock a retro look. My gorgeous friend Vesper is going to help me with that subject today by modeling a totally rad '80s-inspired look.

Tip #1: Pick one particular aspect of the era's style that you love best and build your look around that thing. Vesper loves bright colours, and she looks incredible in them, so the aspect I chose today is '80s-style colour-blocking. Guys, the '80s were ALL about blocks of eye-searing bright colours. Computers were still pretty new to most people back then (can you believe it?), and so were video game systems like the Atari 2600. The graphics were really blocky, pixelated, and bright, and cutting-edge fashion took cues from cutting-edge technology. The pattern of this super-bright shift dress perfectly evokes that aspect of '80s fashion.

Tip #2: Accessorize carefully. I chose this adorable necklace that looks like a cluster of hot pink cherries because it reminds me of another '80s craze: charm necklaces. The '80s charm necklaces were huge plastic chains that people would clip tons of big plastic charms to. They were REALLY ugly, honestly... but my Mum tells me everybody back then though they were 'wicked' (that means good). This necklace is a very scaled-back version of that -- a cute, fun, bright accessory that makes you smile. That brings me to...

Tip #3: Remember that dressing in a retro style is not a fancy-dress event like a Halloween party! You want to bring what's good about the style of decades gone by into the present, leave the ugly stuff behind, and most of all, make your look modern. So the last thing I wanted to do was recreate every aspect of an '80s outfit! If I'd wanted to do that, I would've picked a dress that was a lot looser than Vesper's fitted shift -- one that had giant shoulder pads and a belt. Yeah, no. And I would've chosen jelly shoes (yick!) or high-top trainers in a violently fluorescent colour instead of these light pink ballet slippers. These simple shoes look pretty against Vesper's chocolate-brown skin and they don't fight for the spotlight. They balance the bright dress in a way that's much more 2015 than 1985.

Tip #4: Your hair is part of your outfit when you go retro. You might want to style it in a way that harks back to the era you're drawing from (as long as it doesn't make you violate Tip #3!). Or you might want to use your hair to reinforce Tip #3, as I've done here. Braids were popular in the '80s, but fishtail braids are quintessentially now. Nobody looking at Vesper's braid would mistake that she's right on trend for 2015! Colourful hair ties and clips were also enormously popular in the '80s, but they tended to be big and overwhelming, and hair was often teased into big poofy styles with masses of hairspray. Here I've stuck with two small accessories to go with Vesper's sleek style.

Tip #5: Wear what makes you smile! If you want to throw these ideas to the wind and do something completely different, you should. You gotta do you, right? But I hope these tips help you think about how to take inspiration from past fashion eras and create a modern look that works for you. What's your favourite style era? Do you ever rock a retro look from that time? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Outfit details:
Dress: Everyday Dollwear
Shoes: AG Caroline's Meet shoes
Necklace: Purely Splendid
Hair tie: AG Fair Isle Pajamas
Hair clip: Dollar Tree, from a package with about 10 colors of clips in pairs

Sunday, May 3, 2015

I'm late, I'm late! For a very important... post! Wow, I've been doing so well this year about keeping up with my posting. But I am definitely several days late with this week's post. Okay, about half a week late. Yikes! Here's my excuse: a new school term just started, and it's always a busy time. In the U.S., my American friends tell me, schools mostly have two semesters per year: roughly, September to December and January to May. Some schools in the UK work that way too. But the Bruton School follows the old school-term system, the same one that's used at Oxford and Cambridge Universities and Trinity College Dublin. We have three terms: Michaelmas term (this year's was 12 October - 6 December), Hilary term (18 January - 14 March), and now Trinity term (26 April - 20 June). So for my friends and me, today is the first day of the second week of Trinity. How do your school's terms run? Leave me a comment and tell me about it!

This week's outfit is modeled by the lovely Rachel. I wanted her to look light and bright and springy, but with her white-blonde hair and silver eyes, pastel colours are really not the best for her. So I reached for the classic: navy blue. As I was looking for proper accessories, I spotted a pair of mustard-yellow shoes in my friend Honor's closet, and inspiration struck. Here's the finished look:

Navy and mustard go really nicely together... there's something vaguely nautical to me about the colour combination. I associate it with warm weather and the outdoors.

The show-stopping Swiss dot skirt was the starting point for this look. The notice-me bow and double layer hem give it a really fun and feminine vibe. Ordinarily I would lean strongly towards a tucked-in button down or T-shirt, or even a crop top -- something that wouldn't compete with the bow. But Rachel's style is more casual than classic, which is what a button down would be, and I wanted something that would actually tame the 'girly-ness' of the skirt just a little. It's still a bit chilly in Bruton, so I chose this slouchy marled jumper. The pictures don't quite capture it, but it's shot through with metallic silver threads, so it's juuuuust dressy enough that I think it works with the skirt.

And here are the inspirational mustard-yellow shoes! The bows echo the skirt, of course, and I love the ankle straps and pointed toes. Sometimes one likes to avoid a matchy-matchy look and llet an awesome pair of shoes stand out from the rest of the outfit...

...but I decided to let the shoes guide me in my choice of accessories. Arpana loaned us this chunky necklace and beaded wrap bracelet. We took a risk with Rachel's hair: one side is tied up in a pigtail, and the other side's loose, held back with a barrette. Rachel is all about the funky hair, you guys.

Outfit details:
Skirt: Sparrow and Wren (fka Janie Jumps)
Sweater: Hannah's Dress Up
Shoes: Our Generation -- not part of an outfit; these are sold on their own. Once again, I can't find these online anywhere. (OG, what is up with that? Make your stuff easier to find and buy, please!!!)
Necklace and bracelet: Stretchy (human) bracelets from Old Navy
Barrette: I'm sure this is from an AG outfit, but I don't remember which one
Hair tie: Old Navy

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Everything's Coming Up Overalls

Oh my actual goodness, you guys... I think the entire world might be made out of pollen right now. Ah-choo! I just love the beautiful spring flowers, but I've been sneezing for days. How about you, do you have any seasonal allergies? Even so, I can't get enough of these warmer, sunnier days, the flowers that are popping up everywhere you look, the birds singing in all the bright green trees... it's as though Mother Nature is having a huge party.

This week my friend Natalie came out with me to model a look I chose in celebration of spring. Tegan came out to photograph for us, and she pointed out that every single picture she took has a greenish cast to the light because there's so much pollen in the air! I even realised -- of course only AFTER we were safely back inside and couldn't retake the pictures -- that one of those stringy pollen tassels from the oak trees had fallen right onto Natalie's back, and you can totally see it in the pictures. So, bonus points for you if you can spot it, lol!

This look is one that I pulled together in order to show off these amazing overalls. They are Natalie's, and just lately they've been her signature piece of clothing; she wears them all. the. time., but usually with just a black T-shirt. I wanted to dress them up a little, and maybe give her some new ideas for styling her look.

Natalie's style is an interesting blend of functionality and femininity: she is happiest if what she's wearing is at once super-girly and also good for, y'know, repairing cars or refinishing furniture. (Seriously. Natalie does both those things!) These overalls fit both requirements perfectly. The sprays of coral roses are delicate and beautiful, but really, there's nothing sturdier than dungarees. These are both black and distressed, so they hardly show dirt at all. Floral patterns are all over the place right now, so Natalie's overalls are right on trend. We cuffed them because hey, it's spring, and it's finally getting warmer. The classic black trainers without socks keep the look super-casual, as if Natalie might kick off her shoes at any second and go barefoot.

I wanted to really highlight the roses' gorgeous colours, so I borrowed this coral pink jumper from Rebecca. It's cotton, so it's just right for spring weather. While it's loosely fitted, it's not too bulky to tuck in. And wow, look how it brings out Natalie's stunning jade-green eyes!

In fact, Natalie's eyes were so striking when she put this outfit on that I decided to take my cue for the  outfit's accessories from them, rather than the olive green of the leaves on the overalls. I found this stretchy, blocky Bakelite bracelet in my jewellery box and knew it was perfect. It's the same colour as Natalie's eyes, and it brings just that little dressed-up, 'I meant to look awesome' flair to the look.

Finally, we pulled Natalie's chestnut hair back in a messy low ponytail that started as a quick, thick French braid on one side and tied it off with another bright pop of blue-green. By now you all know that I always prefer a cute, unfussy hairstyle! (Can you spot the oak tassels on Natalie's back? There's one up by her right arm and another one caught in her ponytail! They're EVERYWHERE!!!)

Outfit details:
Overalls and sweater: QTπ Doll Clothing
Shoes: I don't remember which particular shop these are from, but a quick eBay search for 'black canvas doll sneakers' will take you to them in lots of places
Bracelet: OG "In A Flutter" outfit, which I cannot find online anywhere -- it's part of the spring 2015 release at Target
Hair tie: Old Navy

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Goth Baby Goth

Hello, everyone! This week's post is all about an important lesson that I've learned -- about being a stylist, but also about being a friend. If you've been following my blog for a while, you may remember that I've tried a couple of times to put together outfits for my friend Tabitha, whose personal style is goth, and more specifically, grunge-goth. This means she likes to wear a lot of black and army green, things with skulls and pentagrams and things on, and clothes that throw back to the grunge style of the early '90s, like flannel shirts and Doc Martens. In my previous experiments with Tabitha's outfits, I've focused on trying to find things that I like and think are very stylish, and then turn them into outfits that somehow Tabitha is magically supposed to love and feel as though they accurately express who she is. The outfits themselves have been quite cute, I think, and they look great on Tabitha... but they aren't really her.

When I asked Tabitha if she would be my model this week, she was quite snippy with me! She said that in the past I haven't listened to her about what she feels good wearing, or what really allows her to express herself. She told me she would model for me, but that I should just pick an outfit I like and not try to make it about her expressing herself, because it was really just about me expressing myself. What she said really hurt my feelings, because my greatest passion when it comes to clothes is helping people use them to show the world on the outside who they really are inside. At first I thought I would stop asking Tabitha to model for me at all. But I talked to my best friend about it (because I talk to her about everything!), and Charlie said she thought I should listen to what Tabitha was saying and let it help me be a better stylist, rather than feeling badly about it. I realised that Charlie's advice was good, and Tabitha's complaints were fair. So I swallowed my pride, went back to Tabitha's room, and asked her if she would pick the basics of her outfit herself -- whatever she wanted to wear -- and I might perhaps offer just a couple of suggestions about styling it up. Graciously, Tabitha agreed. And would you believe, it worked! Together we put together an outfit that was really and truly about Tabitha, but also a refined twist on what she might wear every day.

The original outfit that Tabitha chose began with what looks like her ribcage T-shirt. It's actually a T-shirt dress -- just a straight T-shirt that comes so a bit above the knee. Tabitha was going to wear it with destroyed grey jeggings, this flannel tied around her waist, and black Doc Martens. I'm going to be honest: I kind of hated it, because I would never ever wear it myself. I started to realise how Tabitha must have felt about the outfits I picked for her to wear, and I felt pretty ashamed of myself as a stylist.

I actually love the hand-painted ribcage dress, honestly. I thought it would work beautifully with some super-feminine styling as a memento mori (a Victorian thing that reminds you of how fleeting and precious life is), but I wanted to work with Tabitha's choices too.

I decided the best place to start looking for inspiration was in Tabitha's own closet. That's where I found this completely amazing black crinoline. Tabitha said she wears it under a couple of her dresses when she has to really dress up for some reason. I suggested that she try wearing it OVER the T-shirt dress, as a skirt. Tabitha loved the idea!

I really felt strongly that the nearly all-black look needed some colour, so I reached for the flannel Tabitha had chosen. Tabitha agreed with the decision, because even though she loves all black, she was concerned that the super-ruffly 'skirt' needed something to balance it out and make it less 'girly-looking' (her words). I love that this flannel shirt is cut in a fitted modern style, not the long, shapeless flannels of the '90s. It makes all the difference in ensuring that Tabitha's outfit looks put together rather than sloppy.

The short skirt provided the perfect opportunity for Tabitha to show off this beautiful pair of hand-knit knee socks that I borrowed from Charlie. (Charlie's mom runs a knitting shop. She has hand-knits stashed everywhere in her room. It's like a treasure hunt every time I go in there, I'm telling you!) Tabitha reached for her trusty Docs, but I suggested these mary jane-style sneakers instead. They show off more of the socks, and they also fit in perfectly with the outfit's very-casual/very-dressy contrast.

Both Tabitha and I are so happy with the way her look turned out! Tabitha feels completely comfortable in this outfit. She tells me she would wear it almost anywhere she needed to be a little bit more dressed-up than usual. I think she looks really cute and put together, and when I look at Tabs in this outfit, I immediately see my friend, not just her clothes.

I'm grateful to Tabitha for being willing to work with me again, and most of all, for being willing to teach me the most important lesson a stylist has to learn: it's not about me, it's about the person I'm styling. If I can't make them look themselves-but-even-better, I've not done my job. It was a painful lesson to learn because I really hate to admit when I'm doing something less than perfectly. But owning up to your failures and mistakes is the only way to get better and do it right the next time! Have you ever had to learn a hard lesson from a friend?

Outfit details:
Ribcage dress and flannel shirt: The Doll Designer
Crinoline: Argh, I cannot remember where I got this! It's not from Etsy or eBay; it was an independent online shop. I bought it at least three years ago. They had crinolines in a ton of different colours. It's the most beautifully-made crinoline I've ever seen for dolls. If you know of an online shop that sells doll crinolines, please post it here and I'll update the post if we figure it out!
Knee socks: Hand-knit by me
Shoes: ReleaseRain

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Spring Blossoms

As far as I'm concerned, spring is all about the flowers. Could there be anything prettier than a field of wildflowers? Maybe one thing: a pretty girl wearing a field of wildflowers! That's just what my friend Tamsyn is doing in this week's post. :)

Tamsyn's favourite colour is coral, so I knew she would really like this dress that I had in my closet. We borrowed this great army-green jacket from Tabitha, and Arpana loaned us the most beautiful dogwood-blossom crown, and we came up with the perfect outfit for a sunny, early-spring day.

Just look at this beautiful floral crown, would you please? To me, dogwoods are the very essence of spring. There's an old, old myth that Jesus's cross was made out of dogwood, and so the flowers are shaped like a cross and have a reddish stain on the tips of the petals, to commemorate Jesus's blood. I always look for the delicate, lovely blossoms around Easter-time. This crown is made of silk flowers, so even if the trees aren't blooming yet, you can still enjoy the flowers. We put Tamsyn's super-long hair into thick braids and pinned them into a casual, pretty up-'do.

This dress reminds me a lot of calico prairie-style Gunne Sax dresses, which were really popular in the 1970s, except it's more casual. The super-feminine coral and yellow flowers and trim are contrasted in a really interesting way by the military style and olive colour of the jacket. I really love the rough-cut seams on this jacket!

Here's a close-up of the print and texture of the dress. The embroidery is such a nice touch. Because it's still chilly here in Bruton, Tamsyn's wearing the dress with olive-green tights and a pair of neutral tan boots.

The back of the jacket is a surprise! The military style gives way to really feminine touches -- rough-cut ruffles and velvet-laced cuffs. The overall effect of the outfit is so very vintage, even though they're all new pieces.

Outfit details:
Dress: OG Faux Keeps outfit
Jacket: I bought mine secondhand from a friend, but it was originally made by Maddie's Girls
Dogwood crown: Fleur 18 Studio
Tights: Purely Splendid
Boots: AG Pretty and Plaid outfit (retired)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Comfortable Classic

Have you ever heard the saying, 'March comes in like a lion, but goes out like a lamb'? Well, that has definitely not been true this year! March came in like a lion, and it went out like one too... albeit maybe a slightly less ferocious lion. It's been unusually cold and wet here in Bruton. This is particularly rough on those people who are inexplicably cold all the time. My friend Julian is constantly shivering, and Rowan literally carries a blanket with her everywhere she goes... even classes! 

Elijah, on the other hand, never seems to be cold in the winter -- nor hot in the summer, for that matter -- no matter what he's wearing. The trick is that he's a master of comfortable layers. At any given moment this month he's been wearing four layers of clothes: a T-shirt, a button-up shirt, a lightweight jumper (which Americans would call a 'sweater'), and a light jacket. The day we did this photo shoot was pretty warm, so he left off the jacket in order to show off the jumper better.

Elijah's style is classic, with a dash of hipster seasoning. He prefers clothing that is timeless, high in quality, and perfectly tailored to him. He's shorter and slimmer than a lot of guys, so a lot of clothes that he buys off the rack are too long or too loose on him. But Elijah knows that ill-fitting clothes -- whether they're too big or too small, and whether the person in them is big or small -- just make those things that you're insecure about even more obvious, because it's clear to everyone that you're trying to conceal something about yourself. The best thing to do is to wear clothes that fit you, no matter what size you are. Elijah very often takes clothes he buys off the rack to a local tailor who can take them in or hem them for him. Alterations mean extra money, which is why he is very careful about buying clothes that he can easily mix and match with other things in his wardrobe.

The outfit he's wearing here begins with a chambray button-up shirt that looks almost like denim. Elijah always buttons his shirts to the throat -- there's the first bit of hipster style in his look. His jumper is a beautiful fine-gauge knit with a sweatshirt silhouette. If it were oversize, it could look casual or even sloppy. But because it fits him perfectly, it looks trim and classic instead.

Elijah's jeans, as always, are skinny but not super-skinny. He really loves the rolled cuffs -- again with the hipster vibe, but also, they give him some flexibility in ensuring that they're just the right length. His boots are classic chukkas. 

Elijah didn't pick his outfit to highlight his gorgeous eyes -- he just likes neutrals and blue. But you have to admit, this look certainly shows off his (dark) baby blues to their best advantage. (And look at that gorgeous topstitching on his jumper... so classy!)

This is a perfect transitional outfit for Elijah as we finally move into spring. It's warm and comfortable, neat but unfussy, timeless yet trendy... a lot like Elijah himself. :)

Outfit details:

Sweater and boots: I bought these from Caroline at Sparrow & Wren Mercantile (formerly Janie Jumps; the new shop debuts tonight, 2 April!!!), but not through her shop; she made the sweater.
Chambray button-up: All Dolled Up Doll Clothes

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Androgynous/Tomboy Style

William Shakespeare once wrote, "Clothes make the man." I don't know about that, but they surely do tell you a lot about the man... or the woman, or the girl, or the boy. When people see your clothes, do they think you're a girly-girl? Do they think you're a real classic, or maybe goth? Some of my friends understand really well that some kinds of clothes just don't fit with who they are. For my favourite photographer, Tegan, it's dresses that just don't work for her. Her style is what's called 'androgynous' -- that means she likes to wear clothes that can work just as well for boys as for girls. In fact, while most of my friends borrow clothes from each other, Tegan tends to borrow clothes from Elijah rather than the girls. She has a really clear sense of the clothes she likes to wear, and she rocks them!

One thing Tegan knows about herself is that she prefers a looser cut of jeans than skinnies. As a photographer and an artist, she spends a lot of time bending, squatting, and generally hunkering down to look at things, and skinny jeans just don't let her move comfortably. These medium-wash jeans are the perfect fit for her.

Tegan also loves hats. You might think she'd want to make sure everybody sees as much of her awesome blue hair as possible, but in reality, you almost never see her without a hat on. This gorgeous sueded bowler was a Christmas gift from our friend Rachel, who has a great eye for what kinds of clothes and accessories suit her friends.

Tegan does an amazing job of balancing a very casual style with a very put-together appearance. In this outfit she's wearing comfy jeans, but they're freshly laundered and not faded or torn. Her shirt is untucked and open at the throat, but it's crisp as a fresh apple, impeccably white, and ironed. Her waistcoat is colourful, but the pattern is neat and small. Her rainbow-beaded pride necklace is subtle, tucked inside her collar because she wears it all the time (that's the nice thing about rainbows; they go with everything!). Everything she's wearing fits her perfectly -- it's neither too big (which looks sloppy) nor too tight (which looks ill-fitting).

Because the orange of her waistcoat is perfectly complementary on the colour wheel to Tegan's blue hair and blue jeans, it works as a great accent rather than a jarring visual contrast.

Finally, just because you're rockin' an androgynous style doesn't mean you can't love an amazing pair of shoes. The awesome pattern on these picks up the colours in the rest of Tegan's outfit.

Tegan will tell you all day long that she has no interest in fashion, but I can honestly say I had nothing to do with pulling together this outfit -- this is all her. She knows exactly who she is, and she knows how to make sure her clothes fit her personality. It all comes together perfectly!

Outfit details:
White button-down shirt: Maddie's Girls
Vest and shoes: QTπ Doll Clothing
Jeans: Pippy LaJade Jean Co.
Hat: Village Hat Shop, San Diego, California