DIY statement necklace

There I was, watching “Jerseylicious,” when a necklace that Olivia was wearing made me fall off my chair. I could make that! I realized with excitement. I jumped over to my jewelry and grabbed these three necklaces…

And, I began threading and twining the pearl necklaces, to come up with this…

It’s so fun! By twining them together, there’s no catch in the back so the only way to put it on is to slip it over your head. But, it fits!

You can also tweak the necklace’s draping by lengthening and shortening the loops, like this. I’d also like to try twining a strand of black pearls to give it a contrast color someday too.

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Published in: on September 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm  Comments (2)  
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Italiano all the way

I have a handbag obsession. I rationalize it as the most effective form of therapy, but the truth is I just love bags. While there are designers whose visions of handbags have sent me over the moon, I have also had amazing luck by changing up my bag shopping ways: I’m shopping Italiano.

Not Gucci (but I adore Gucci) and not Pucci (love you too, Emilio). Instead, I’ve been on the lookout for “no-name” Italian designers whose work shows up on ebay for so ridiculously cheap, you can pick up a bag often for less than a price of a pizza! The allure of quality materials, stitchwork and hardware at such reasonable prices can drive me into a drool-inducing hours of window shopping via computer.

One lovely designer is Marino Orlandi, whose vision includes alot of bucket bags, but I was fond of this red, lovely crossbody who showed up in my life awhile ago for only $10. I love the crocodile imprint on the leather, and the Kelly-style silhouette is a classic that keeps me interested, no matter the season. I’ve paired this with a purple sweater, dark jeans and black knee high boots in winter and loved the red-purple pop.

One trick to searching ebay is to use generic terms such as “Italian leather” or “soft leather” as your keywords, that’s how I found this red lovely. If you’re open to new designers, and the possibility of some amazing quality leathers, you’d be surprised what this kind of keyword search can yield. Now sort your list by lowest price, and you’ll find the uber bargains right on top.

And don’t forget to click the box to “search descriptions” too. This alone can help you find lots of items that fall through the cracks, and therefore often don’t get bid against.

“Italian leather” keyword searching was exactly how I found my summer crush by Italian bag designer Cecconi Piero. Isn’t this pretty? It’s velvety soft, glove leather and just puddles when you set it down.

It all started on a vacation to Colorado in June when a painted leather bag caught my eye in a store window, but the $170 price tag kept me from nabbing it on the spot. But it haunted me, as only a collector can be haunted. However, when I saw this painted leather beauty by Cecconi Piero on ebay? I knew I’d found my replacement. This was only $40 and although it’s from a season ago, it’s in nearly pristine condition. On Piero’s website, his handbags average 260 Euros (roughly $360+) so I was particularly proud of my shopping prowess.

Here’s another trick to finding great ebay bargains: check for misspellings. For example, the Cecconi Piero logo looks like “Ceoni” Piero to the untrained eye. As a result, many bags get listed under this typo, and also do not get bid against because of it.

…And, it has ladybugs! Ladybugs have been my theme since the beginning of summer, when I began doing ladybug totem meditations, so seeing them here on my bag pleases me greatly!

Published in: on August 23, 2011 at 7:51 am  Comments (2)  
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The traveling ho scarf

Isn’t this the coolest scarf?

I love it. I wish you could hold it in your hands, and hear the stories it tells. Every square of this scarf was knit by another pair of Bravo Whores’ hands, in our traveling scarf project. The Bravo Whores is a subforum on the ravelry.com website (dedicated to knitting, crocheting, and spinning fiber) and we began this project in 2008. My scarf didn’t come home again until 2010, and over a dozen wonderful women made it happen. And, it was worth the wait.

It’s unique, it’s amazing, it is personal and it is fashionable. Each of us in the group chose the colors we liked best, but otherwise the yarns and designs were selected by each knitter to add their voice to the scarf.

And although the Bravo Whores didn’t plan it this way, I think it’s interesting that the scarves vaguely resemble the scarves that Project Runway Season One Winner, Jay McCarroll, used for his final runway show that season (below, far left).

Now is the time to say it loud, say it proud, “All hail the Bravo Whores!”

Published in: on August 16, 2011 at 12:44 pm  Comments (3)  
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A date night look

Date nights come around for my husband and I about every 6-8 weeks, and whenever they do? We live for the time we can spend paying attention to each other for a change, and to keeping our AllSpark alive (see? the kids are already creeping in again!)

Aren’t we adorable? Together for 19.5 years now.

Date night for me means a night to get dressed up and wear something pretty, for my man… and for me.

It’s a favorite ensemble of mine, and was deemed blog-worthy by several fashionista, Bravo Whore friends of mine. So, let’s take a moment to pull some items out of my closet!

The “Ariba” dress is by Diane von Furstenberg, and I rarely get a chance to wear it unless it’s the dead of summer because it’s a lightweight silk which was perfect for 98* weather that day. I’ve paired it with periwinkle tights and a black DVF cardigan for a theater outing last Spring, but that’s the only time this one’s seen the light of day besides mid-summertime. Its silk weight is light as air, and the cumberbund tie band fits snug on the torso, but loose on the stomach, making it so easy to wear, even if you’re sitting in a theater seat for a few hours after a big dinner.

The shoes are Dolce & Gabbana, they’re velveteen with rose print, an ebay treasure I nabbed several years ago for under $50. Here’s to having big feet! Sometimes, size 40s and 41s don’t get bid against as much. Always ask your seller to measure the insole if you’re bidding an item and uncertain of the fit. On average, look for items with .5″ longer insole than your own footprint.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m more of a bag girl. Here’s a purse pr0n shot, with two of my favorite things, to go with the shoe pr0n shot…

…henna and a great bag. My henna design (done by me, of course) is hard to see in this light, but the bag sure isn’t. It’s a Balenciaga City bag in the color called Ink (a tongue-in-cheek reference that it was bought with earnings from my freelance writing). Another amazing aspect of this color, which has never been offered again since Balenciaga used it in 2006: It’s purple in daylight, but tends towards black in low light, or at night. Because we were leaving mid-day, it was an easy day-to-night piece to carry.

Nice close up on the DVF rose print material too, by the by. You can see the periwinkle.

Hubby took this one before we left, a nice look at my hair, makeup and jewelry. I’ve given up on my hair (except for keeping it red) with the rationalization that people pay big money for Brazilian blowouts to create hair as straight and lifeless as mine is naturally. Hubby is a fan of bangs, and of me wearing my hair down, so….

Makeup was light, since our date began at 3 p.m. but I winged the eyelids a bit with black eyeliner. I made the “statement necklace” from 3 other necklaces I already own (I’ll be blogging more about the necklace, I promise). And, I matched it with a gold tennis bracelet, a pearl dangle bracelet in gunmetal, and crystal & gold hoop earrings.

If you could smell Chanel No. 5, you’d have my entire look for the evening encapsulated right here.

We had a blast too, I’m already counting the days until our next getaway.

Published in: on August 11, 2011 at 8:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Tom Ford made me sunnies!

You remember when you were a kid, and you’d find those keychains/bumperstickers/magnets that had your name on it? And you’d search through the rack until you found your name, and then… that thrill when you saw your name there?

Yeah, I never had that. “Alissa” was never there, I dreamed of it though.

I admit, there’s still a little bit of that 8-year-old girl in me who thrills to see something with her name on it. So imagine how I felt when I found out about these…

Gasp! Why, it’s even spelled correctly! No Y, one L, two S’s.

Tom Ford, that darling man, made me some sunglasses! Wasn’t that nice of him?

I’m so delighted! Thank you, Tom! I love them! And, the best part? These beauties retailed for $600. But I live and die by the motto, “Never pay retail.” I nabbed this brand new pair on ebay for over 90% off retail.

SCORE! Here’s how happy I am about them…

A few tips on helping to authenticate your Tom Ford sunnies, if you find a pair that’s intriguing: Get familiar with the model by doing image searches on retail sites that carry the same model you’re shopping for. Read the exact text on the glasses’ inside arms and compare fonts for accuracy. Know which designer details to look for, such as the recessed “Tom Ford” plates at the exterior ends of the arms. And most importantly, make sure the left front lens has “Tom Ford” inscribed, in the correct font, to be sure your pair is authentic. This pair didn’t include these photo details in the ebay ad, but the seller provided more pics to my email upon my request.

Many buyers are too lazy to put in the research but for the intrepid shopper? It’s like hitting the jackpot! Another ebay tip: Set a search for your model and designer name, and be patient. For 5 weeks, every new pair of Alissa’s that were listed on ebay started at a price of $120 and up. When this pair showed up with an opening price in my price range? I stalked it like prey until they landed on my face.

Published in: on August 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dear Tiffany (and Co.),

I can’t stop thinking about you.

I know we met a long time ago, but every day and night, all I see in my head is your logo. Taunting me with taco kisses, like some JLo tease from Colorado. It’s been a long time since I’ve been swept off my feet like this, I won’t lie. But you’ve done it.

I’m stalking you now. It seems only fair to let you know that my sights are on you, and I shall have you. Silver first. Just a silver. Or two, or three. Then, we’ll see if you and I are destined for something more. Something deeper and more meaningful.

Until the day when my flesh touches yours, remember I am thinking of you fondly in this painful absense which has become more unbearable each passing day.

T&Co Kisses,

Your adoring fan Alissa

Published in: on July 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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For the love of high heels

People often remark on my heels. I don’t know why. Perhaps because from age of 18-37 I refused to wear them (except at my wedding, or onstage as part of my costume). Why? I hated high heels. I have been known to declare, “Heels are torture devices, designed by men, just like the bra!” or “Function, not fashion!”

Can you believe I was ever so stubborn? If you know me, of course you can. So for several decades, I *never* wore heels. And then, I had an epiphany, as I am wont to do.

You see, I’m surrounded by testosterone. Every day of my life is about crazy-boy-energy or crazy-man-energy. Robots and guns, sticks used as swords in the backyard, and mixed martial arts. It’s kung fu and karate chops all day long around here, “Hi-YA! Hi-YA!” Even my toddler already has his testosterone pumping, “Fight fight BOOM!”

So I must guard my estrogen. I must protect it from the onslaught of masculinity that is my daily existence. And when the Great Fashion Epiphany of ’07 struck me, along for the ride came a love affair for high heels. The higher the better!

I wear shoes that men don’t wear. I wear shoes that no one would ever mistake as belonging to my sons, or to my husband. Two inch heels are like tennis shoes to me, I can do anything all day long in 2 inch heels. Four inch heels are more my standard attire, a nice height to see the world from.

But the uber-heels are my favorites, “tranny shoes” as Rachel Zoe would say. I have several pairs of shoes and boots that are 5 and 6 inch heels. With those on, I stand on demi-pointe, a feat my former-ballerina self delights in.

I view the world at a staggering 6’2″ in height, and find myself looking men dead in the eye (which many find unusual). You should see men back up when they realize you’re looking at them, literally, eye to eye. Sometimes, I find myself looking down upon men, another unusual vantage point for many women to ever experience. It changes things, don’t think it doesn’t. Most men like it, you can tell, but some don’t.

As for me?

I rise above, darlings. I rise above.

With my heels on, I am Woman, Hear me Roar. With my heels on, I feel feminine in a world awash with mud and Transformers.

So now you know. I wear my heels because they are my last bastion of femininity in my boy-laden reality. I wear my high heels like the Queen wears her tiaras… as a statement of my feminine beauty and power.

Published in: on January 18, 2011 at 9:33 am  Comments (4)  
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Fall obsession? Hats!

I’ve just started a series of facial peels, in my unending search for my favorite skin care procedures and beauty rituals, and this has had an impact on my boudoir as well. I need hats! I’ve been slowly buying more to supplement my collection and to best protect my skin from the sun.

It’s hard to find a good hat. Not including the 10,000 knitted hats I own (that I’ve made but provide warmth and no shade) I began my millinery collection with only one hat, a Liz Claiborne summer straw hat that my husband bought me years and years ago, it engulfs my head and on occasion looks very silly, but provides great shade (especially when fishing). So last year I nabbed a black lace Schiaperelli that I bought more for the label than the look, I admit. Shade yes, but kinda silly on me. Add a leopard ladies’ tea hat (no shade), and a gray & white wool newsboy cap (decent shade), and that was it for my hat collection.

With the facial peels in progress, I have been religious about keeping my face out of the sun for the past month. And so, I started up with more hats. Found a vintage brown wool herringbone-patterned newsboy (decent shade), and just yesterday I grabbed the cutest gray and black bonnet from Target. So cute, and works in every season! I wore it out of the store, I loved it so much. My next favorite design is the 1920s flapper cloche hat, which j’adore but they provide no shade. Just a lotta look. Perhaps I should seek out a small hat with an attached veil? Certainly would provide a little sun protection, but in reality? Can you see me going to the grocery wearing a hat with a veil?

It’s interesting how many hat designs are taken from men’s fashion, such as the conductor’s cap, the newsboy cap, and of course, the fedora. I keep trying on fedoras because I want them to work, it’s a huge look right now thanks to Britney Spears, but on me I look like a BananaRama reject from the 80s. Not cute. The oversized knit Rasta cap looks pretty dumb on me too, that I can say.

Hats to try soon include the straw boater hat that Coco made so famous, nearly 100 years ago. Is there a hat type that works for absolutely everyone, and also provides decent shade?

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 3:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Because all the world’s a stage, or runway

Remember that Zac Posen dress I scored last Christmas for 95% off $1500 retail? Well, guess who finally got a chance to take it out for a spin last night?

 Musical Theater Southwest is a local company that is dear to my heart. Over the years I’ve performed for several of their shows, and I’ve also worked behind the scenes for others. In May, their warehouse burned, destroying 50 years of costumes, props, sets and local history.

Last night, I attended a fundraiser for the company, and seized the opportunity to finally wear my Posen dress for the first time. It felt amazing! The dress is a body con design, with a nod to the bondage trend, wrap dresses made famous by other designers such as Herve Leger, but done by Posen in an evening wear style. The spandex bands wrap you up tight from the top to just below your hips, coupled with light boning to provide attractive lines, and functional support. The bottom is a sheath of delicate pleats in a lighter fabric that swishes at your heels while you walk. Heaven!!!

To finish the look I wore silver and gold Jimmy Choo heels, and my Chanel double-sided flap. Jewelry was simple with rings and black pearl teardrop earrings, and you can’t see it, but both my hands are hennaed with an Indian style lace design. For hair, after much deliberation regarding wearing it up, I chose to leave it down instead, with emphasis on polished and straight, and heavy eyelash-dusting bangs. And for my makeup, I went with a toned-down smoky eye (I fail at creating a true smokey eye that doesn’t end up looking ghoulish) and berry lips, with purple-gone-black nail polish on nails and toes.

The dinner was hosted at Perrenials, a local restaurant owned by the Harris family. Their son, Neil Patrick Harris, got his start with Musical Theater Southwest and flew in from L.A. to attend the benefit dinner and show his support. He has amazing skin. I wish I could have asked him what he does to maintain it.

My favorite part of this picture? My friend Tahirih in the background, peeking over at us. She cracks me up, I love her! My favorite part of the picture above? Check out the baby toy scattered about the floor in the background for a taste of my normal life.

Published in: on August 23, 2010 at 10:08 am  Comments (3)  
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The glorious excess of the ruffle

I’ve been having a fashion epiphany, and it’s all about the ruffle. The simple, lowly ruffle. Used to be that when I thought of ruffles, I pictured flouncy, little girl dresses and a design detail that can quickly become saccharine if not handled well.

But then, I had an epiphany.

Truthfully, it all began with the bow, and an article I read (in Vogue?), discussing the nature of the bow in fashion and how women are socially expected to wrap up their beauty and “present” it to the world. Fascinating!

And then, I began to work on a ruffle scarf with some new yarn I had bought last month. I kept trying to force my yarn into a shawl, but the shawl pattern kept getting messed up. After ripping it apart 3 times, I figured the yarn didn’t want to be a shawl, and so instead I found a pattern for this scarf.

And that’s when I began to understand the nature of the ruffle. The ruffle is a statement of excess. Of glorious, luxurious, even ludicrous excess!

To create the spiral ruffle, the pattern is worked length wise. You cast on 200+ stitches, and every four rows, you basically double your stitches with “yarn-overs”. By the end of the scarf, you’ve added over 800 stitches.

But, I wanted a long scarf that could be doubled up, if necessary. So I cast on about 260 stitches, and modified the pattern to the yarn I had to work with. The final rows were over 2000 stitches. 2000 stitches in one row! The very thought boggles my mind, the very excess of 2000 stitches, which take me a day or more to finish, in a single row!

An entire ball of yarn, 450 yards in length, would create 3 rows. That means 150 feet of yarn create only one 1/4″ row along the length of the scarf. Overall, a half an inch was created, and for nearly $8 per ball.

And that’s when the true nature of the ruffle dawned on me. The ruffle is a statement of excess, of luxury. To create a ruffle, in yarn or in fabric, you have to be able to use more (far more!) of your materials than you need. Layers of ruffles are like cascades of excess, and a statement to the viewer, “Not only do I have enough money to buy this fabric, I have enough to make it into ruffles, which serve no purpose beyond adorning me.”

Historically, the ruffle comes in and out of fashion regularly, and in today’s buyer’s market no one really considers the extra fabric that was needed to create the ruffles on your skirt or shirt sleeves. The ruffle’s true nature of glorious excess has been lost on bargain racks of clearance items.

But, my darling ruffle, I understand you now… and I every time I wear my scarf (which I should finish binding off today!) I will remember how the true nature of the ruffle in fashion was revealed to me.

Published in: on May 21, 2010 at 7:41 am  Comments (4)