Fashion Friday 11/21/14

I know it’s been a long time since I put up a Fashion Friday post, and this is one I’d thought I would publish earlier this year. But I didn’t have all the pictures yet — and I’m actually still waiting on the professional shots — so it all had to wait.


Fashion Friday: Costumed Freaks Edition

I love dressing up in costume. The school where I teach has a lot of dress-up days during the school year to celebrate various things and events and to give the community a chance to show off their school spirit, and I frequently take advantage of these days to express myself through my clothing. I may not go to football games, but I do care about the students who play on the team and who are our cheer athletes, and I care about the school, so I show my school spirit in this way.

But these themed days and Halloween and dressing as a literary character for Book Fair and things like this, while fun and wonderful, are just not enough for me.

In our twenties, my friends and I used to have costume parties at the drop of a hat. It’s New Year’s Eve? Let’s make it a costume party! Someone’s birthday falls in the same week as Bastille Day? Get a powdered wig and make a giant dress out of upholstery fabric––the birthday party will be French Revolution themed! July 4th? Let’s see who can show up in the most creative interpretation of red, white, and blue!

Then lots of us had kids and were too worn out to sew elaborate costumes for three or four occasions a year. But just because we ran out of disposable time, income, and energy doesn’t mean we completely gave up on the things we liked.

Every summer, my sister and I attend a large costume ball out in Los Angeles. It lasts two nights over the course of a weekend, and one of the requirements for attendance is a costume. And not just any plastic and polyester sack cloth you can buy at the grocery store for Halloween, either––the costumes at this event go over the top. At the very minimum, to get into the party, you need formal wear and a mask, but the vast majority of people do much, much better than that.

Sometimes I like to wear extravagant outfits that I can’t wear anywhere else. Clothes that make me feel beautiful, that put me into the spirit of the fantasy theme of the masquerade ball. As costumes go, I admit they aren’t super creative, but I like wearing them. This year I developed one that was unfortunately more difficult to dance in than I expected, but it was really lovely.

I started with a plain red, strapless, taffeta gown that I ordered on sale from Victorian Trading Co. To see what it looked like before I got ahold of it, click here to be taken to their online catalog.

Some of the attractive features of the dress included a layer of red lace in the skirts and ruching all the way across the bodice. The reviews of the gown said that it ran a little small, so I ordered a size up. Unfortunately, when it arrived, it was still about three sizes too small! So since the shipping was going to be crazy expensive anyway, I took it to a tailor and had the back zipper removed and corset lacing installed, which made the dress prettier and adjustable, as well as solving the fit problem completely.

I was trying to figure out how to bustle the very long train so that I could dance in it, but then a domestic mishap involving my husband’s cat solved that problem for me. Without getting into the grisly details, I’ll just say I had to cut off nearly all of the long train (several feet of fabric). I took several yards of black lace­­––it had a bas-relief rose pattern on it to echo the red taffeta rose at one hip of the gown––and made a new train for the gown and two shorter lace falls for the hips. I added a black lace top underneath.

waiting outside the hotel for the shuttle to pick us up to take us to the party
waiting outside the hotel for the shuttle to pick us up to take us to the party

LOJ 2014 gown from the right

I considered adding wings or an Elizabethan stand-up collar or something to the top half of the dress to balance the volume of the skirt/train situation, but those can be unwieldy, especially in a crowded ballroom or on a dance floor, so I opted for an elaborate headpiece instead. Enter this cage fascinator, made by Enchanted Dream Wear.

headcage fascinator view 2

Not too tall and extremely lightweight, it’s comfortable and easy to wear all night. The cage has several decorative bands which wrap around my head and attach to each other with elastic under my hair. On top sit various embellishments, including some brass gears and butterflies, some feathers and flowers, and a tiny animal skull.

headcage fascinator view 1

This piece incorporates both the Gothic and Steampunk flavors I wanted.

I also went for an unusual manicure treatment to go with the outfit. It’s all in the details, right? This look was created by first brushing on two coats of black, then adding white stripes and silver glitter accent stripes, and then painting a garnet-red French tip across the top.

LOJ 2014 manicure

If I were going to do this again, however, I would make the base coat white and the stripes black, so that the red would show up better.

I wore only slightly more dramatic make-up than I would for going out to dinner (though I could have done much more and been well within bounds for this outfit and event). My hairstylist (the awesome Kevin Roberts) updid my hair with pin curls and added some dark red extensions to simulate roses.

Here's my hair with most of the curls in it, before the headcage fascinator goes on and the tendril in front gets curled.
Here’s my hair with most of the curls in it, before the headcage fascinator goes on and the tendril in front gets curled.

Finish off the look with a sparkly lace fan––because dancing all night is a warm activity, yo––and we’re done.

Here's a picture of me with my sister. We did not plan to wear the same colors beforehand. We didn't even notice we were doing it until hours later when someone else who was taking our picture pointed it out.
Here’s a picture of me with my sister. We did not plan to wear the same colors beforehand. We didn’t even notice we were doing so until hours later when someone else who was taking our picture pointed it out.
Here are my friends Sarah and Adriene, waiting to get in with us outside the venue.
Here are my friends Sarah and Adriene, waiting to get in with us outside the venue.
Hey, look! Another picture of the Wonder Twins!
Hey, look! Another picture of the Wonder Twins!

The kinds of costumes that show up for this event range from extravagant…

This was so incredible I don't even know where to begin describing it.
This was so incredible I don’t even have the vocabulary to do it justice. Her skirt has a 3D light-up village embedded in it! Terraced and everything!

…to maybe a little scary…

LOJ 2014 demon
This dude had a tail.

…to hilarious.

This is one of the goblins.
This is one of the goblins.

One guy out there this year spent a couple of hours the afternoon of the event and about six dollars at Walgreen’s and made a strapless ball gown and beehive wig — think Marie Antoinette as a funny arts and crafts project — out of colored duct tape and wrapping paper.

This guy's costume made me so happy! It's the same idea but with a totally different execution from my friend Adrienne's, which she spent way more time and money on than he did for his! Yet both are FABULOUS.
This guy’s costume made me so happy! It’s the same idea but with a totally different execution from my friend Adriene’s, which she spent way more time and money on than he did for his! Yet both are FABULOUS.

Another guy had dressed as Jon Snow in an enormous fake fur greatcoat; he looked miserable on the dance floor, as if he might spontaneously combust at any moment. And then there are those who spend months and hundreds of dollars on their elaborately detailed and drool-worthy outfits, and all of us who are costume geeks take pictures of them all night. One woman out there this summer came as a fiery dragon, resplendent in a multi-layered and complicated chiffon gown and real metal-scale armor.

And here she is with another interpretation of a dragon.
And here she is with another amazing interpretation of a dragon.

To offer a comparison for how extraordinary and creative a lot of the costumes out there are, I’ll just say that my own costume was of the type to render me nearly invisible at an event like this––perfect for when you just want to blend into the ballroom’s shadows and people watch.

Talisk photobomb
I got photobombed by a Talisk. Don’t ask.

Because the people watching at an event like this? Wow.


If you’d like to be a guest contributor to our Fashion Friday series, click on the Fashion page and follow the guidelines to contact me with your idea.


Fashion Friday 9/12/14

Today we have a Fashion Friday post from guest blogger Kasia over at Writer’s Block. Some of you might remember her as the force behind The Milk of Female Kindness — An Anthology of Honest Motherhood, an excellent and rather varied collection of essays, fiction, poetry, interviews, and art on the theme of motherhood. Check out her blog and the anthology, but first enjoy her timely post on style correlation.



Are you a style icon? I’m not.

But I do like to watch and learn. I travel on the train to work, and if I’m too tired to do anything but stare around in a zombie-like fashion, then I can’t help observing my fellow commuters. Discreetly, of course – there’s nothing more likely to have you labelled as the train lunatic (there’s one in every carriage) than sticky-beaking unashamedly at the people around you.

As a result of my gawking research, I’ve come up with a working theory about style. There are perhaps three schools of commuters. Firstly, those who are bursting through the cutting edge of fashion – whether it suits them or not. Often they are beautifully groomed, having spent at least an hour in front of the mirror before hopping on the 8.07am. I guess that I can admire the time and effort that they must go to, although part of me wants them to rebel against the sycophantic dictates of the industry that tells them they will look wonderful in neon yellow this season. Unless, of course, they do glow in neon.

The second group just don’t care, and I suppose I’d divide them into those who have a noble disregard for their appearance (a freelance sculptor I know comes into this category – he used to come to work in his pyjama top), and those who are, well, slobs. Sometimes it can be pretty hard to tell the difference. It may come down to how articulate you are.  😉

The third group? These women have their own styles, regardless of fashion. It can be a brave position to take – the peer pressure to all look the same is not inconsiderable. This third group I’d also split, but by a sort of style correlation factor. Let me explain.

There are some women I see, about whom I think: “Wow – I love that top/skirt/magician’s cape! I wonder if I should try one of those?” High style correlation. I’m not saying that my taste is better than anyone else’s, just that these people have a similar look or body shape, and they have dealt with it beautifully. They give me ideas. Sometimes it’s just a small thing, like wearing brightly coloured stockings with a monochrome outfit – a little whimsy that I saw a woman in the city carry off with terrific elan, and which I now often wear in winter. I do love colour, and being able to add a flash of it to a more sober suit is a joy.

Some people are trying but, well, they just get it wrong. We all have those days, I think. Too tight, too short, not right for our body shape or colouring. I’d call this one Low Style correlation, because of course, it’s only my personal taste that says that look isn’t right. There is a woman who I see most days, who always wears black, head to toe. Layers of black, in an unflattering cut. I long to be able to suggest to her tactfully, that unless she is in mourning, she would look so much better in colour, but I know black is easy. Perhaps even lazy. Perhaps, and I suspect this is closer to the truth, she just wants to disappear into the background, which is a bit sad.

Then there are those who provoke the thought: “Wow – you look great in that! But not for me.” These women often have superbly quirky styles – the goth girl who is as white and lithe as bamboo grown in the dark, with long green hair.



Kasia's post pic #1


The chick who looks like she walked off the set of Mad Men (and the amount of time required to achieve that corseted, lacquered mid-twentieth century look makes me shudder).



Kasia's post pic #2


The lady with generous curves who dresses with terrific colour sense and flamboyance.



Indian Banarasi collection 2013 (
Indian Banarasi collection 2013 (


I would never choose to wear what they have chosen, but I can appreciate it. I love the fact that they have been able to bring their personality out in their clothes: that they seem to be having fun with their appearance. I see joy and playfulness in these women, each with their very different styles.

Style is inherently a matter of taste.

What I think these women have in common is a terrific natural self-confidence. They can rock their own style, to use a great American phrase. You’ve got to admire that. My point is this: you don’t need to give a stuff about what is in Vogue this year. You don’t have to bow to some bimbo in advertising. If you love hats, then wear them with verve, and people will admire you for it. If you want to wear studs and chains, go for it. Red rubber shorts? If you can carry it, and they suit you, why not?

You may need to grit your teeth at first. It’s a scary, judgmental world out there; you need only look at the statistics about body image to get confirmation of that. To give you some examples, 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school, and relationships (from Beyond Stereotypes, the 2005 study commissioned by Dove, surveyed 3,300 girls and women between the ages of 15 and 64 in 10 countries. They found that 67% of all women aged 15 to 64 withdraw from life-engaging activities due to feeling badly about their looks.

A random stranger once reached across, tapped me on the arm, and said, “You know, you’re very pretty,” and then kept looking out the window. I was blown away and have never forgotten it. It’s only happened once. I don’t even remember what I was wearing, but I do recall the courage it must have taken for her to say that to a stranger, and also how it made me glow all day. This could be a reflection of my vanity, but there are so many images and messages out there all the time telling you that you’re not good enough. You know the ones – the photoshopped perfection of magazines, the insidious messages of advertising. That sneaky little voice that says: “You could have perfect skin if you just buy this cream.” They’re all selling hope. Hope that you will look better.

Imagine if every time we saw someone with their own style who looked terrific, we could tell them so. They might be putting their own style out there, but cowering inside. A little encouragement can go an awfully long way.

If we all had the confidence to rock our own style, the world would be a much more intriguing, varied, and happier place.



Would you like to write a guest post for our Fashion Fridays series? Check out the Fashion page on this blog for more information and some examples, then query me with your idea!

Fashion Friday 6/13/14

The other day, I ran across this really interesting post (that you can read by clicking on this link) about women in technology careers and how they dress, and how there isn’t a single uniform for women in tech fields the way there sometimes seems to be for men in those same fields. This post addresses the issue of the representation of women in tech on TV and what’s wrong with it, and it gives some very real examples to illustrate its points.

(And for what it’s worth, my husband is a software developer and does not wear hoodies or sneakers to work. Neither, from what I’ve seen, do the people on his team.)

It also touches on the ugly topic of the way women are often treated in geek culture, as if they couldn’t possibly be real geeks if they’re attractive or have varied interests or aren’t completely obsessed in fandom but are just really enthusiastic and motivated by the subject they’re geeky about. (This is a difficult subject, of course, and it just might be one that’s touched a nerve or two in conversations I’ve had with less enlightened guys on the subject of my “commitment to comics” and other similar nonsense.)

I’m genuinely interested in what you think. Discuss!  🙂

Fashion Friday 5/16/14

We are in the midst of sending off our seniors, evicting them from high school, like you do, with a mixture of joy and relief and bittersweet melancholy.  I’m not sure how I do this every year, and I can’t imagine what it will be like when my own kids and all their friends are graduating, but ah well.  Till then, I’ll just keep practicing with my students.

To hide my misty eyes and to celebrate the incredible spring weather we’re having, I’m highlighting my new favorite hat, which was a birthday gift this year from one of my dear friends.

Mother's Day 2014


I love hats.  Evidence of this is clear, not only in my Fashion Friday posts from when I first started the series last year, but also in a recent piece I wrote for Bayou City Magazine.  (And here’s the companion post to it here on my blog.)

Have a good weekend, and wherever you are, I hope you’re having some delightful spring weather!


If you’d like to contribute to our occasional Fashion Friday series, fabulous!  Click here for information on how to do it.

Fashion Friday 5/2/14

This is just a quick post. I’m out at DFWCon, a writers’ conference in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  One of the other writers here has some kitty cat shoes from ModCloth. Had to share!  My cat-obsessed daughter is going to love these…





If you would like to be a guest contributor for our Fashion Fridays series, please click here to find out more and to see past posts.

My Post About Hats on the Bayou City Magazine Blog

Don’t worry, poetry fans.  I’ll still be featuring another amazing poet tonight on this blog in celebration of National Poetry Month.  (For any readers who are new here, click on the Poetry tab to see an index of the past month’s featured poets.  It’s a real treat!)

But this morning I need to post something else, a companion piece to an article I wrote which launches today elsewhere on the Interwebz (link follows).  Enjoy!


When I was asked earlier this year to write a piece about hats for the Bayou City Magazine blog, I jumped at the chance. I love hats and think everyone should wear them if they want to.


Wearing cute hats makes us happy.  (photo by Kara Masharani)
Wearing cute hats makes us happy. (photo by Kara Masharani)



When I was a younger woman, I bemoaned the fashion choices that had led to the presumed demise of the excellent hat. When I suggested to some close friends that perhaps we should bring it back into fashion, I found the rumors of the hat’s death to be greatly exaggerated. Lots of people liked hats! Enjoyed wearing them, even! I was both excited and…confused.

If everyone thought hats were so great, why wasn’t anyone in my fair city wearing them?

There seem to be a couple of big obstacles to hats’ being a staple of women’s daily fashion. The first is the perception that wearing a hat is just too much hassle when one is getting ready for one’s day. The second, and this may be subconscious fuel for the first reason, is that it takes some chutzpah to make a visual statement like that. But everyone is capable of overcoming these little roadblocks.


Go for a wider brim to add a little drama to your look.  (photo by Kara Masharani)
Go for a wider brim to add a little drama to your look. (photo by Kara Masharani)


First, let go of the myth that hats will make your hair fall out; in actuality, they protect your hair and scalp from sun damage, which is more healthful. Also forget the idea that you need a dozen different chapeaux to have a solid hat wardrobe. You can, of course – and, um, I do – but it’s not required.


You wouldn't believe how easy it was to find this hat.  Go ahead -- guess where I got it.  (photo by Kara Masharani)
You wouldn’t believe how easy it was to find this hat. Go ahead — guess where I got it. (photo by Kara Masharani)


The Fashion Fridays series here on this blog was started in part as an effort to bring hats back into popular style. For more details on how to choose a hat for yourself and where in Houston you can go out wearing it, click on over to Bayou City Magazine to see my article.

Fashion Friday 1/31/14

Remember when I said that Fashion Friday would be back after a hiatus, but only occasionally?  Well, it’s baaaaack… (but only occasionally).

We’ve had some seriously wintry weather down here in the south lately.  You might have noticed?  Now, in Houston we’ve been luckier than in Atlanta — oh, those unfortunate folks! — but it’s been sort of intense here.  We’ve had TWO Continue reading “Fashion Friday 1/31/14”