Shift in the Wild: Megan Draper Is Free

Sigh, I love Mad Men. A large part of that has to do with the clothes, of course, and I look forward to reading Tom and Lorenzo's Mad Style analysis of each episode almost as much as watching! I love seeing how costume designer Janie Bryant uses clothes to help tell the story. Think about Betty's perfect housewife dresses, Joan's curvy sheath shapes, and Peggy's extremely practical tops and skirts. You could almost line them up in an "evolution of womankind" poster -- as the idealized femininity of the 50s fell away, something new took its place.

Enter Megan Draper, a woman just a bit younger than Peggy but far freer in her ideas, speech, and emotions than any other female character we've seen on the show (except maybe Peggy's awesome lesbian photographer pal). And I couldn't help noticing that, in the first episode of this season, she's wearing a lot of shifts. Some pretty frickin fabulous ones, too.

Free waists for free women! Janie Bryant is telling us that women are changing, and Megan is one of the new models.

Not only is she setting aside traditional feminine silhouettes; she's also showing quite a bit of leg in these looks. New shapes for a new kind of gal.

I can't wait to see these trends play out over the rest of the season. Will we see Megan in a Yves St Laurent Mondrian-inspired shift? Will Peggy rock a mini-skirt? How long till Sally's running around in ripped jeans and muddy feet? I rub my hands in gleeful anticipation!

The Joy Of Being An Outsider

When I started Wear the Shift, I was an outsider to fashion design, a complete amateur. I had never drafted a pattern or even sewn a real garment in my life. But starting the company from Knowledge Level 0 was a conscious choice on my part, because I wanted to approach this problem of "how do we make clothes" from a new angle.

And it worked. Since I didn't have any experience, I just tried stuff. With each iteration, I thought deeply about what worked and what didn't, and I was able to cycle through ideas very quickly until I hit upon an algorithm that created the fit I wanted.

Of course I ran into stumbling blocks. Of course I will continually refine what I'm doing based on customer feedback and continual learning -- I am finally taking patternmaking lessons!

But my process of experimenting and thinking and experimenting some more led me to a unique way of creating sewing patterns, one based on the reality of an individual person's body rather than a list of commercial standards. I'm not sure I'd have been able to do that if I'd started off by going through design school and learning all about The Way Things Are Done.

I think about this in terms of the way I look, too. I'm cute enough, sure, but I've never been the kind of girl you'll see walking a runway -- I'm a beauty outsider. And while that sometimes made me a little sad when I was a kid, I see now how it's given me enormous freedom. I will never look like a movie star, so why not just try to look like what I think is cute?

Even as Wear the Shift grows into a bigger company with a wider impact, I never want to lose my outsider status. I never want to fix my crooked teeth, or starve myself to get skinny, or worry about whether the way I dress is "fashionable" or not. I want to look like myself, experiment with wild abandon, and retain every drop of my freedom.

We tend to think of being an outsider as somehow being less than. But I see it differently. Being on the margin gives you a unique perspective on the status quo and makes you less beholden to it. Which means you can more easily change it.

My Best Thrift Score

... is this orange coat. It's clearly from the 60s, high quality wool lined with satin, and incredibly warm. Almost too warm, sometimes, but as you can see I needed it today as winter blew back through the Burgh.

I got it at Red, White, & Blue about 5 years ago, and it was $3 because it had a giant gross stain on the front. One trip to the cleaners later, it was good as new.

I love it because most winter coats are black or navy or gray or something. This tangerine stands out. Oh yeah, and isn't it the color of the year or something? Go me!

Underneath this treasure, I have on my Eddie Vedder flannel shift, some turquoise sweater tights, a sweater from Uniqlo, and my trusty Merrell boots which are the best winter boots I have ever had.

What's your best thrift score?

What Size Am I? Depicts Fashion's Fatal Flaw

Have you seen this cool new website, What Size Am I? You use the sliders to put in your bust, waist, and hip measurements, and the site tells you which sizes at which stores are likely to fit you. Right now the site is of limited usefulness to me in figuring out where to shop, because it only goes up to size 16 -- maybe there'll be more sizes in version 2? But I still think it is an amazing tool, because it paints a clear picture of exactly what is wrong with the way we do sizes.

How the site works is, it plots your bust, waist, and hip onscreen, forming a curve out of the 3 numbers. For folks with hourglass proportions, the curve looks like a U. For folks with straighter proportions, the curve is shallower, and closer to a straight line. Here are a few random graphs using measurements from customers I have had in just over a year of business -- the client measurements are represented by the black curve.

Pretty wide variation, right?

Now check out the curves created by the measurements corresponding to store sizes -- the gray lines on the graphs above. Unlike the individuals' curves, these show almost no variation. The proportion between bust, waist, and hip is basically the same shape across all the sizes and all the stores.

These graphs show it clearly: if your curve is different from the check-mark-ish curve that this mix of stores designs for, you are largely SOL.

For a very long time I have felt that seriously 99% of what is in shops is not meant for my body type, and I have to say that seeing the data visualized in this way makes me feel vindicated. I'm not crazy and I'm not deformed … most clothes really just aren't designed for me!

What do you think about all this? And where would we outliers be without stretch clothing? One shudders to think.

Five Fly Fashion Blogs

Ahh, fashion blogs, how I love thee. There are so many smart, stylish, really really ridiculously good looking people in the world! Here are five that I really love. Grab a cup of tea and check them out!

Le Blog de Big Beauty

Stephanie is a model living in Paris, and her French language blog is full of gorgeous shots of her looking chic as all get out. I love seeing her elegant and creative outfits. This shift-based one is one of my favorites.

I also love that she doesn't talk about dressing to "camouflage her figure problems" or to "be flattering". She just wears crazy great outfits and works the camera and is her inherently foxy self. Show us how it's done, Stephanie!

And she designs clothes, including this insane black and white jacket that I need.

Fashion It So

When I first heard about this blog on The Hairpin, I squealed. It is a WHOLE BLOG dedicated to the wackadoo fashions of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

From Riker's deep v-pajamas to the startling variety of nutty jumpsuits, there is plenty to talk about. And that's before they even get to the aliens.

If I go to heaven when I die, it will surely look like the Starship Enterprise D. And I hope Anna and Charlie are there to have a Cardassian hot chocolate or something with me in Ten Forward, and talk smack with Guinan about Wesley's sweaters. Oh, and maybe Laxwana Troi can be there too?

<3 u, Fashion It So!

Already Pretty

Already Pretty covers the intersection of style and body image -- writer Sally McGraw posts outfit pics, styling ideas, and more philosophical pieces, too.

What I love about Sally is that she holds lots of space for all the contradictions that are inherent in being a modern, liberated woman who is into fashion.

For instance, in a recent post about the documentary "Miss Representation," she describes how the film made her question her life's work. How does dispensing style advice help women in a culture that assigns much of our value based on how we look?

"The point is not to feel beautiful. The point is to feel powerful, capable, invincible. The point is not to feel pretty. The point is that you’re already pretty, and once you’ve accepted that, you free up an enormous amount of mental space for other things."

Also, the, geek in me loves how she breaks style down in an analytical way -- it's almost like she's creating A Pattern Language for fashion. This recent post highlights a pattern that I use almost every day -- Long over Lean. I just never had a name for it before!

Worn Fashion Journal

Worn is a blog that goes with a Toronto-based magazine called Worn Fashion Journal, and it covers a wide variety of slightly nerdy fashion-related topics. I love how it blends cuteness and philosophy.

Recent posts have spotlighted recently departed costumer Eiko Ishioka, vintage ads for luxury goods, and a fashion studies graduate symposium at Ryerson University.

Oh, and jewelry made out of Barbie parts. Nice.

Fuck Yeah 60s Fashion

This is a Tumblr full of awesome 60s fashions that slay me. Yes, there are lots of shifts.

I love this blog because it captures so much diversity in what we think of as "The Sixties" ... there are some pretty incredible differences between what was the pinnacle of beauty in 1961 …

And in 1969 …

I love finding great new fashion blogs! What are some of your favorites?

Chicken Cutlets, Rolling Luggage, and Other Tales Of A Fit Model

As a larger sized lady who loves clothes and the founder of an alternative clothing company, I talk a lot of shit about the fashion industry. But my experience comes only from the point of view of a (largely disgruntled) consumer. What is actually involved in designing and manufacturing clothes? Carolita Johnson is a cartoonist, essayist, and all around lovely person who also works as a fit model. I met her a few months ago through our mutual favorite website, and she was gracious enough to answer my questions about how clothes are really made for the mass market. Read and learn!

WTS: So, how are garments produced? What steps lie between a designer's brain and what I see hanging on the rack in the store before me?


It depends on who the designer is working for, herself or, say, DKNY.

If they work for themselves, they'll usually design a garment, make it themselves or have it made by a patternmaker/seamstress (one or both). Then they'll either try to sell it to a department store buyer based on that sample, or put it in a show and THEN try to sell it to a buyer, or maybe just begin stocking their own little boutique with the design without seeking anyone else's okay.

If they sell it to a buyer, they then have to re-fit the garment for "real" people, not just the small size that appeals to buyers on a hanger or model. In that case, they get someone like me to come in for a couple of hours, and make the garment fit properly. After that, based on corrections made, the patternmaker will "grade" the pattern into different sizes, which then get made up by a seamstress or a factory. Those garments will be the stuff you see in a boutique. Not very glamorous! It's also a long long process. Not the jet-setting thing most people imagine.

Buyers, to be more specific, are the ones who look at shows or press kits from designers, then decide what they want in their store or boutique. They're the ones who place an order with a designer, and they often also give input as to how long they'd like a garment to be, or how short. Sometimes they actually influence the design, depending how much power they have in their own milieu. A designer might, for example, add a lining to a sheer dress or blouse at the request of a buyer. Or make a dress shorter or tighter, if the buyer's clientele is shorter or more "bodycon" on the average. Sometimes they'll ask for a detail that will make the garment they're selling different from the same garment in other boutiques they don't buy for, so they'll have an exclusive.

WTS: So when you see a runway show, those are all basically just refined prototypes? And the garments don't actually go into production until much later, based on which buyers decide to buy which garments?

Carolita: They're the first avatar of a garment. They're the dream before reality hits. What you see in a fashion show is often not practical, sometimes not even wearable in real life. Once a buyer decides they want it, the designer has to refine it and re-fit so that it's wearable, and meets a certain price point. Sometimes half of what you see in a show never goes into production, because nobody wanted to buy it. So demand often determines what a designer's line is going to look like.

WTS: What, if any, differences are there between clothes you get at a place like Wal-Mart, clothes you get at a place like Macy's, and clothes you get at a place like Bergdorf's? Bergdorf's are nicer, of course, but are there any differences in how or where they are produced?

Carolita: Not that much, except for quality of fabric and manufacturing. For example, some of the very cheap blouses fitted on me that are sold in junior boutiques are a much better fit than a more expensive blouse from a more expensive designer. It all depends on the patternmaker.

Also, some patternmakers can be total virtuosos of their profession and have their work completely ruined by a bad factory. Thus you'll sometimes see a garment that was sold at, say, J.Crew, one year, that was great that year. But then the next year when they have it made at another factory, the fabric is not as nice, and the sewing is not as good. Same designer, same design, same store, but new factory. There are so many little things that can go wrong or right.

Also, yes, some high-end labels are manufactured more often in Milan than in China. A lot of woven/non-knit clothing is made in Bangladesh, it seems. Jeans are often made in Mexico -- I've gone to the Jordache factory there because they make Wranglers, too, as well as other labels.

In my experience the best knits are made in China. Things made in the USA are often very poor quality, believe it or not. Many designers only place small orders with USA manufacturers, saving their 300K orders (I mean 300,000 sweaters) for China.

WTS: Are there differences between how clothes in different size ranges are created? Or is it basically the same process with different patterns involved?


Nope, it's all the same, just different fit models. We range from petite to 18W. There's a fit model for everyone!

WTS: How many fit models are involved in each garment line? Like, when the Gap has a boyfriend fit jean and a slim fit jean, is that 2 different fit models, one with a "boyfriend" body and one with a "slim" body? Or are all the styles fit on the same people?

Carolita: There is a different fit model for every different fit. I can't do "curvy," for example, because my body is more of the "slim" fit. There's a different model for curvy. There's also a different model for missy and juniors in the same size, because an older woman's bust and hips are usually lower than a junior's bust and hips. Also, the posture is often different. I notice that missy fits seem to be made for women who slump a little. Young people stand up straighter! Probably because they're less burdened.

WTS: What's your day like as a fit model? What exactly are you being paid to do? What kind of environments do you work in?

Carolita: Today is a slow day. In fact for the next few weeks I'll have more time on my hands, because of Chinese New Year, which closes down the factories (and everyone else who needs them) for about three weeks. But usually I go to a fitting, say, at 10:30, stay an hour or two, then go to another fitting. I usually have a half hour between fittings to give me time to get dressed, sign my voucher (proof that I worked for the client), wait for the elevator, get to my next appointment, and start all over again, till the end of the day. My fittings don't usually go past 6pm.

What I'm paid to do is arrive nice and neat and meticulately groomed, and equipped with everything I need for a fitting. When I used to do lingerie, that meant I had to wax and shave EVERYWHERE!! That's why the pay is good. But I got tired of lingerie, and also, the older you get the more you don't feel like doing it anymore, whatever your body looks like, I think. I don't love it, anyway!

What I actually do is try on a garment, stand there with a good posture (not too straight, not too slumped), and listen to the patternmaker as he/she goes over the "specs" of the garment, meaning the measurements. So, they'll say, "hips are 39 and a half, do they feel good?" and I'll respond, "you don't need 39 and a half for stretch," or "a little tight in this heavy linen with all the pockets and extra seams, they are uncomfortable." Or I'll say, hey, the crotch on these pants is giving me a wedgie! Then they'll measure the pants' "rise" (that's the space between your legs) or check the shape of it, and correct it.

I have to stand very still, but be very observant. I have to turn around so the patternmaker and/or designer can look at the garment I"m wearing as the measurements are read out. 

Designers and TD's (Technical Designers) will come up to me and pull on the garment, pin it up or down, stick their fingers into the waistline, get all up close and personal. Sometimes this is just one person, sometimes it's three or four.

Most people who have been doing it a long time will use a pencil to point to parts of the garment while they discuss design changes or questions, to avoid touching me, which I appreciate. (Sometimes by the end of the day, I'm so tired of being nudged and poked and pulled that all I want to do is go home and nap alone to decompress, which my BF has learned not to question!)

As for equipment, what I come prepared with is: a strapless bra, a lightweight, unlined bra, a thick hard bra, a black t-shirt, a black camisole top, a black pair of leggings, a long-sleeved t-shirt, a light sweater (for coat fittings), a pair of flats, a pair of heels, a pair of Spanx (for my party dress fittings, to avoid VPL, because I hate thongs), "chicken cutlets" -- the bra inserts to bump you up a size. That's just for the job.

For my own personal use, I have makeup (for retouching myself after pulling 25 sweaters on and off), hairspray, lint remover, emergency supplies (bandaids, disinfectants, menstrual supplies, stain remover, toothbrush, mouthwash, phone charger...

As you may already be guessing, most fit models have aching backs from carrying all this stuff, so we mostly resort to rolling luggage. Rolling luggage is the mark of an experienced fit model. A tote is the mark of a short day with a client who already has everything you need on site because they have very specific needs in terms of shoes, etc.

When I'm lucky there's a fitting room with a little alcove or partition with a chair, where I can change. However, I do sometimes fit in a corner of someone's office, where everyone simply politely turns around while I change. (I'm not shy, but there is nothing less dignified than the human body making all the contortions it needs to go through to change one's clothing. I like my shred of dignity.) Other times, I change in a closet. One client sticks me in the storage room with the air conditioning system, it's very "Brazil," the movie. I keep fantasizing that Robert De Niro will come swooping in and smart-talk me.

WTS: What kinds of people do you work with? More men or women? What ethnicities and age groups? I guess I'm just fascinated by the question of who are these people who make all these clothes that don't fit me? :)

Carolita: For the mass-market clothing, I work with a lot of Chinese people, because they have a language advantage, working with Chinese factories. They're a lot of fun, and I've picked up a lot of Cantonese! Also, mostly women. Age range is anything from 20's to 40's. You don't see a lot of people over 50. (At least not over 50 and acknowledging it -- Seventh Ave is rough). One office I work at is like a beehive of 99% women, and I kind of like it. For the higher end stuff, I generally see a lot of people fresh out of elite design and business schools, and they're often European.

WTS: It must be really bizarre to have to maintain your body image in your job situation. I mean, on top of all the ape-face stuff, too! Wow. I would imagine you must have some black belt tricks for hanging onto / regenerating self esteem / not taking this shit personally, right?


I am very very lucky, and I have always told people who want to model that if they're not genetically predisposed to have the advantage in modelling, they really oughtn't mess with their bodies. My metabolism has always been very fast, and my appetite has never favored carbs and sweets. So, before my metabolism slowed down in my old age (old for a model), I had to eat all the time just to keep my weight UP! It was very expensive because I'm very picky. In other words, I am not engaged in a constant battle to stay thin.

Here's a funny story. When I was modelling lingerie, my client decided they needed a bigger model, one size up. They asked me if I could put on weight, or if they had to start looking for a new model for the next season. They really liked me, and at the time they were my only gig, so I said, "yeah, it won't kill me to be a six instead of a four, and I might get more work out of it anyway." (Which I did.) Thus began six months of eating Krispy Kreme and blueberry pie for dessert every day. But I also had to begin going to the gym, so that the weight gain would be evenly distributed. Gaining weight at that time in that way was probably the healthiest thing that I ever did. I still can't believe I was skinnier than I am now. I consider myself a healthy slim.

I firmly believe that eating quality food in quality time is a must for anyone, whatever their natural weight. Feeling bad or anxious about the food you eat just puts a curse on every mouthful, I think. I eat until I'm not hungry, not till I'm full. I read while I eat. I indulge in the occasional hot dog or Godiva truffle, but I consider these things for special occasions. I really love meat and veggies. And I insist on a lunch break: I tell my booker that if she wants me to stay a size 6, she better fit in a lunch break.

And as for my self-image, yeah, it's always hard when people actually TRY to make me feel old and fat (yes, ME, even ME) sometimes. I just remind myself that I am good at what I do, and also remember that people see what they want to see. For everyone who thinks I'm ugly or old or fat (can you believe it?), there's someone who thinks I'm beautiful or way too skinny. I reserve the right to be the judge of myself, and usually when I look at myself in the mirror I decide that I have nothing to complain about, all things considered, which is good enough for me!

WTS: Are there any other really interesting questions that I haven't asked that you would like to answer?

How about, do they take pictures of you? And the answer would be "yes, but they don't photograph my face!" My face is totally irrelevant to the fit. Which I'm grateful for! There must be a couple thousand headless pictures of me by now. Scary to think about! And they're in computers all over the world! But it's very easy to tell what size, because the photo usually accompanies a whole list of technical comments attached to a spec sheet. The techs get used to looking at different bodies. Some recognize me by my necklace!

WTS: Share one funny memory about a fitting you were involved in, and then I'll let you go! With my undying gratitude!

Carolita: The funniest thing I ever head during a fitting was when a designer had spent forever trying to tweak a very unsuccessful skirt, then suddenly said, "I think this skirt wants to be a pantsuit." Don't ask me why but remembering that still makes me laugh.

WTS: I find so much of this process odd ... but it's great to hear how it works. Thanks again, Carolita, for the edumacation!

The Shift in the Wild: Sweet Charity

Sweet Charity is one of the happiest and saddest movies I have ever seen. This 1969 film -- the first directed by Bob Fosse, and starring my favorite, Shirley MacLaine -- tells the story of Charity Hope Valentine, a dance hall hostess who is super sweet and crazy about love ... almost to the point of dumbness. In the first scene, she's so busy singing her dude a love song that she doesn't even notice when he steals her purse and dumps her into a lake! But honestly, you don't watch this movie to ponder the female conditioning that causes Charity to make unworkable life choices -- you watch it for the dancing! The interior design! The young Ricardo Montalban!

And, oh my gosh, the outfits! There are shifts EVERYWHERE in this movie. Here's Shirley MacLaine, Chita Rivera, and Paula Kelly wearing cute short shifts in the movie poster:

In fact, Charity spends most of the movie in that little black shift, except when she's wearing this one at the dance hall (sorry for the not that clear screen cap -- she was running around a lot in this dress):

Legendary designer Edith Head built the costumes for this movie, and nowhere are they more fabulous than in Fosse's classic dance sequences. The ladies in "Big Spender"?

The dancers in "Rich Man's Frug?"

I cannot even believe those sparkly hat/wig things with the crazy square-armhole shifts:

If you should decide to watch this movie, I should warn you that the ending may make you cry. It may also make you want to give Charity a wee throttle and a Come-to-Jesus talk about trust and relationships and not obsessing about getting married to SOMEONE DEAR GOD ANYONE. Even if a cute wedding shift catches your eye.

But, regardless of her weaknesses, Charity is pretty darn lovable overall. Even when I want to throttle her, I also admire her zany, hopeful resilience.

AND her ability to work a black shift literally every day.

Clutches Are Coming! And Last Day For 10% Off Sale!

Just a quick note today to let you know about a few things: 1) Today is the last day of our wee Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale -- enter SHIFTYGOODNESS to get 10% off everything, including gift certificates!

2) I made clutches this weekend! And they are so much fun -- folded over, they are just the right size to stash your wallet, phone, and keys ... unfolded they will fit all that plus your iPad, too! Just a few tiny details to hammer out, and they will be in the shop -- hopefully for Thursday.

All 3 prototypes:



What do you think?

Bill Cunningham Knows What Fashion Is For

The last few days I have been pretty much incapacitated by a sore neck. It sounds a lot less awful than it was! Owie! I couldn't do much of anything useful, but the upside was that I got to watch some Netflix -- specifically a documentary about New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham.

He is an amazing character. Even over 80 years old, he hops on his bike and zips up and downtown, day and night, to take pictures -- pictures of well-dressed people on the street, society types at charity events (wow there are a lot of these!), and trends that he notices happening in real time.

He lives very simply in a studio in Carnegie Hall, with dozens of file cabinets full of the photos he's taken over the years, his mattress on a pallet on the floor. He's just completely consumed -- in what seems to me the purest and sweetest possible way -- with his work. How else could he get away with something like this?

I loved this film -- both getting to know a little about Bill and also seeing all the different eccentric people and wonderful looks he's photographed over the years. (Check out the image search for his name!)

And I love hearing what he thinks about how things have changed -- after covering five decades of fashion, he is perhaps more well equipped to say Thoughtful Things About Clothes than just about anyone. There's one particular segment where he describes post-war couture in the most evocative way:

Clothes gave women enormous security through the elegance of cut and taste and refinement. There was nothing frivolous about them.

This is followed by a vintage commercial in which captivating women in dramatic, glittering frocks gather on a grand staircase, and the voiceover tells us, "To equal your beauty, marvel of marvels, that is quite impossible." In French. Swoon! And also, mind blown! Because in 2011, the subtext is less "you are unspeakably exquisite" and more "no, you won't fit into our clothes, nor can you afford them, so how about a $30 lipstick or $200 wallet?"


What I like most about this film is just the way that Bill sees fashion. I like what he notices and how he articulates it. And I like how he pays attention to the clothes and the people wearing them, and lets the money/status stuff slide right out of the frame. "Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life," he says, and he's right -- we all gotta wear something. I admire the way Bill values and showcases the expressive, beautiful, and fun ways we suit up.

Plus, Iris Apfel is in it!

Help Jane Style Her Jane

Cute dress alert! This is Jane, who lives outside of Atlanta and describes herself as warm-natured. A few months ago, she got this shift, also named Jane!

She emailed me a few weeks ago with these adorable pictures and mentioned that she was still contemplating how to layer and bejewel her shift. So I offered to find some options for her and see if you guys had any ideas, too.

Based on a few things Jane mentioned in her email, I started thinking about lightweight layers and cute yet comfy and casual shoes. I also felt like natural stone and wood jewelry would look great on her, with just a little leather and sparkle to lift the looks up.

So I went on Pinterest and Etsy and started picking stuff out (which is SUPER FUN BTW) and here's what I came up with. Click the image to see this board on Pinterest, where you can check these items out closer-up and visit the shops where I found them.

I love idea of this shift with a jean jacket, gray oxfords, and a lightweight scarf in a saturated color. Or, to dress it up a little, a soft wine cardigan, a buttery leather belt, and some shimmery flats. Or with the tweedy blazer and those boots!? So many cute options. And I love the natural jewelry with this color palette.

What do you guys think? Any ideas to help Jane style her Jane?

(And if you need some suggestions for styling any of your Wear the Shift garments, drop me a line via the Contact form.)

What Is "Flattering"? Another Tiny Rant

JessPgh is a Pittsburgh-based professor and fashion blogger at Consume or Consumed who recently wrote a brilliant and, to me, mind-altering response to a commenter who told her an outfit she was wearing was unflattering: I reject the discourse of "flattering."

This sentence has been rattling around my mind ever since I read it.

Why does "flattering" matter so much, and what does it even mean? Jess breaks it down like this: "We all know the "rules" say that for women, dressing to flatter consists of making the body appear as small and/or thin as possible."

This is why folks tell apple-shaped ladies like me to position belts around our rib cages to create the illusion of a waistline even though that is kind of horrifically uncomfortable.

And why pear shaped ladies are supposed to wear wide-legged pants to balance their wide hips, as though wide hips are something which must be balanced at any cost.

And why short ladies are meant to wear heels to create a longer leg line, because you know, short leg lines are responsible for some of the greatest atrocities of our time, amirite?

All of this helpful advice is aimed at one thing: making us look thinner than we are. Smaller. As though we are actually less.

Jess expresses this beautifully: "Trying to ensure women take up as little space in the world as possible is only one of many ways to minimize our social value and cultural input."

Which, honestly, makes me want to construct and wear the biggest goddamn tent dress in history. With crinolines. Because, you know, I am almost 6 feet tall and I laugh loud and adore bright colors and have giant thoughts and not only am I never going to be tiny ... I don't even want to be. I want a BIG life full of HUGE social value and MASSIVE cultural input. So why should I worry -- even for a second -- whether some outfit makes me look small? Why should any of us?

I want clothes that make me feel strong and cute and whatever else I want to feel. Sometimes that means I put on some Spanx so I feel smoother in my clingy dress. Other times, it means I wear a big fluffy sweater that makes me feel cozy. Or I put on some crazy sexy heels. Or I rock some skinny jeans even though they're not supposed to "work for me" or something.

My point is that the range of possibilities is enormous, and they are literally all good. Style and aesthetics are super subjective, and trying to measure up to this imaginary objective yardstick of "flatteringness" is just silly. I, too, reject it.

My hope is that we can decide what we want to wear based on just that -- what we want to wear. What we think is fun, pretty, comfortable, hilarious, dramatic, appropriate for the day we have planned, clean enough to be seen in, whatever. I want each of us to make these decisions based on whatever we want to base them on, not on "the rules" that our (still quite sexist) society proscribes as "flattering" for "our body type."

(So many quotes! So much "bullshit"!)

I guess I just really want us to have a blast when we get dressed. Because, really, besides keeping our bodies moderately covered and protected from the elements, isn't that what clothes are for?

One Shift, Three Looks: Hiya Houndstooth

Ever since I made this shift about a year ago, it has been among my very favorites. I love wearing it because the colors look great with so many other shades, but it's not at all boring -- it kind of reminds me of Olivia, which is in the shop right now. Check out 3 different looks I put together using this dress.

Look 1: Daytime funtimes

For this look -- which screams BRUNCH to me -- I paired the shift with jeggings (awful word for an amazing garment), my favorite red boots, and a lightweight coat I scored last month at Re-Dress NYC. Sadly, their brick and mortar shop is closing in a few weeks ... but their online shop is expanding and features another amazing garment with a terrible name, teggings.

Look 2: Sparkly night times

This look is a little nutty, but I love it for a night out on the town. Purple tights, a satin jacket, little gray booties, and my workhorse shift. Sparkly accessories take it over the top in the most delightful way. The only thing I'm missing is Rick James -- it's a celebration!

Look 3: Staying warm at work times

It's cold in the office where I work. Hell, it is just generally cold in the world right now and it's only getting colder. I layered my trusty shift with wooly gray tights, a drapey raspberry cardigan, and tall brown boots, another amazing secondhand find from my recent trip to New York. Gotta stay warm and keep moving -- no time to hibernate!

Which look is your favorite?

Way Too Excited About New Shoes

After a glorious week of Indian Summer, fall is now officially happening ... and it's the gray, drizzly variety. Seems like the leaves changed colors one day and fell down the next! I woke up determined to battle the entropy with NEW (to me) SHOES and built a (slightly insane) outfit around them.

So I got these beauties a few weeks ago on a super-quick trip to New York to see Elvis Costello, who was great! Found them at the Buffalo Exchange in Williamsburg, and, yes, they are practically brand new Fluevogs. For $30. Which is like 90% off the original price! I actually did a little wiggle dance in the store when I saw them, and the shopboy joined me in my glee. Right place, right time, high five.

Here's a closeup. I love them with the purple tights! And I now have a new answer to the question "What goes with everything?"

Have you landed any major secondhand scores lately? Do tell!

Black and White on a Gray Day

Hey kids! It's sort of gray in Pittsburgh today, but not too cold. I woke up wanting to wear this skirt, paired with a pop of bright color.

So, this is our Here and There skirt matched up with these comfy rad sandals from Jambu, a long cobalt blue tank from Target, and a sweet little jacket from Svoboda. I adore this jacket, and have a bell-sleeved version that I will be living in once it gets super cold.

I have to give a shout out to Svoboda, because they are probably my favorite plus-size designer. Their jeans are the best, cut beautifully for both comfort and hottness, though they are seriously not cheap. For several years I was able to pick up samples and overstock on ebay at a huge discount, but they don't appear to be selling there anymore. Bummer.

Fun fact: these pics were taken in front of the Electric Garage, where gross old cars are transformed into shiny electric cars by super smart folks from ChargeCar (part of the CREATE lab at CMU, where my honey works). This building used to be an Exxon station, and I worked here one veeeeeery long winter when I was in school. Good times?

Fall Fashion Trends, 1955, pt 2

Let's hop back in our DeLorean and wrap up the 1955 Fall fashion trends from the New York Times Magazine. Check out Part 1 here.

Slinky Gowns
Oh, I wish I had somewhere to wear that 1955 dress in silk or wool crepe. Mmm...delicious. But, sadly, my life plays host to shockingly few gown-wearing opportunities. C'est la vie. This custom maxi dress on Etsy, however, would get worn to death. Just do me a favor — if you're a redhead like the model, think twice about that purple. (It's available in a couple dozen colors.)

Fur Hats
Squee! Totally fab. This pillbox hat wants to be yours. Wear it with MAC's Retro lipstick. I will envy your fabulousness.
Sparkle and Gleam
I am a magpie. As such, to keep myself in check, I am constantly reminding myself that less is ususally more. So, rather than an all-out sequin bomb this fall, keep your sparkle understated with a pair of gorgeous rhinestone earrings made with vintage crystals. (Or, you could indulge your inner magpie with the Hard Rock Candy shift....)
Casual Furs
I have a love-hate relationship with faux fur. It's divine when done well, but that so rarely happens. This stylish blue fur jacket is trim and fitted enough to avoid that "I skinned a muppet for this" look. And that, to me, is the number one priority in wearing faux fur.
Easy Waisted Dress
Hmmm ... where could you get one THOSE?

Seriously folks, what clothes are you excited to dig out of storage? I'm SO HAPPY to have my boots back!

Fall Fashion Trends, 1955, pt 1

A month or so ago, Madge and I were browsing at Creative Reuse and came across these great old volumes of magazines, discards from the University of Pittsburgh Library. Of course, we love the vintage fashions, so I snatched some up, thinking it might be fun to go back to 1955 and see what was fly in the time of McFly. Here's what the New York Times Magazine says the fashionable set will be donning come Autumn, along with some modern alternatives.  

The Return of the Stole
Can we agree that stoles are a bit too fussy to be practical? Sure, it LOOKS good, but here in the real world, I feel like I'm bound to trip on an end, drop all my bags most comically, and land in a muddy puddle. (Just me?) For ladies more confident in their ability to walk, a modern option: this lovely, drapey rayon shawl from Ten Thousand Villages.

Fur Trimming
Nothing says both vintage glamour and snuggly warmth like a faux fur collar. How about one in a fun color from etsy? Wear it over a cardigan or a twee tee and be impossibly adorable. 

Box Pleats
Box pleats are really great — you get ease of movement and you don't look like a total puffball. But I don't see many modern box-pleated options out there, at least not good eco-friendly ones in a variety of sizes. So instead, I offer you this adorable vintage wool skirt, and will let the more petite amongst you fight over it.

Big Sleeves
No modern alternative here because I am seriously not feeling the outsized houndstooth appendages. Sorry, 1955.

Focus on the Hips
As a relatively squarely-shaped person, I'm all for this! How about this drop-waist knit dress on etsy?

Coats! Jackets! Tunic Length, Double Breasted, and Bell Shaped
Kill two birds with one stone and splurge on this gorgeous custom double breasted (and bell shaped!) Melton wool coat. Not in your budget? Mine, either. But I can dream, no?

What do you think, will you be adding any of these old-fashioned trends to your Fall wardrobe? Do you like big sleeves? And stay tuned, there's a part 2 to follow.

First Day of Fall Outfit

Yesterday felt like the first day of fall in Pittsburgh -- drizzly and chilly and gray. The upside? I got to wear lots of layers and bust out some boots to boot!


This is an older prototype shift -- you can tell by the neckline -- and I haven't worn it for a while. I think the weather made me want to wear something lavender and blue-ish. I'm also wearing jeggings from Svoboda, boots from Blowfish, and a corduroy blazer I got at the thrift store. Had to get that side shot because I am in love with this bag! My fella gave it to me on my last birthday and there are thistles inside!

Who else is excited for cold-weather fashion?