Sunday, November 29, 2015

All About that Ombre

    It seems like every time I say the word "ombre" I get asked what it means.  Even my spell checker doesn't recognize it.  So, let me do a quick definition of what it is before we talk about how to do it.  Ombre is when you have a color that gradually goes from light to dark.  I'm redefining it a little to be using multiple shades of the same color in one outfit.  Having everything in one matching color is boring, but taking one color and wearing several pieces in lighter or darker variations creates some visual interest.  I'm going to show you how to do that with the same color (purple) in two different outfits.
    When choosing your color, be aware that some colors make such a statement that they really need to be worn in moderation. For example I've seen an orange ombre dress that really just looked like a melting Popsicle costume.  So, when you're just starting to play around with this style, stick to the basics like blue, green, purple, pink, or even brown or black.  I chose purple for this demo because some of its shades have so much blue that they're almost neutral and also because I have so many shades of it.  In a later post, I'll repeat this theme with brown, rust, and tan.

 
    This is my first selection of purples to ombre.  The top and scarf, and the dress in the next outfit were all purchased from ThredUp.com, my favorite online thrift store, for $37.  If you're new to ThredUp, use this link to sign up and save $20 off your first purchase  http://www.thredup.com/r/WKVOY5. Plus ThredUp will donate 5% of the cost of your order to the school or your choice.
    This first outfit is very casual and uses three shades of purple going from the lightest shade at the bottom to the darkest at the top.  The scarf also has an ombre theme with the accent stripes.



    The second style is more dressy and I really only used two shades of purple and black counts as a neutral.  Using only two shades is a good way to start playing with this concept if you're afraid of single color overload.  I love the eyelet details on this dress and the top above, which add visual interest to all these solids, but I would advise against using prints with this look as it might be overwhelming to the eye. 

Shop the Look:
Shirt from ThredUp for $6
Dress from ThredUp for $27
Scarf from ThredUp for $4
Boots, Purse & Cardigan from ModCloth.com
Heels from Charlotte Russe
Jewelry is Handmade
Satchel is from a local thrift shop

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Path Passerby Bootie: Shoe Review

    It was love at first sight with these boots.  I love taupe boots and the crochet doily front was so unique I just had to have them! I really thought they'd sell out right away.  Now, I wish I had waited for them to go on sale.  
    Cons:  They're not water proof, they're a tad narrow, the sole is so thin, you'll have to put insoles in for cushion if you plan on doing any walking in these booties, and they're quite a bit more...blousey than they appear in the photo. I was hoping they would stand up straight, but the crochet front sort of bunches and hangs and looks a bit sloppy.   
    Pros:  The color is a nice neutral taupe so it will go with just about anything, the length is true to size, the style is unique and interesting, and they have laces and a side zipper so you can tighten or loosen and then leave it that way. 
Overall, love the boots, but wish I had paid less for them.
 Shop the Look:
Path Passerby Bootie from ModCloth

Dusty Rose Cardigan from Victoria's Secret

Lace Tunic and Cami From Charlotte Russe

Locket and Bracelet are handmade

Grapefruit Purse by Nila Anthony

Jeans by Yumi



Sunday, November 22, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Gardens of Whimsy

    All those childhood, springtime afternoons spent in the sunshine with making flower wreaths with friends come to mind when browse the beautiful work of Gardens of Whimsy  Far lovelier than anything our little hands wove, these garlands are made, photographed and modeled by April Rissell, the founder and creative mind behind GardensofWhimsy.etsy.com  I was fourtunate enough to chat with her about her shop and her creative process.  
Bleu Avenue:  April, thank you so much for joining me.  How did you start making flower crowns and hair accessories?
Gardens of Whimsy:  I started making flower crowns just on a whim. I never could have foreseen that it would become my job, but I am very fortunate it did.  About six years ago, I sat down with a pile of vintage velvet flowers and decided to make a few crowns just for fun and I listed them on Etsy. They all sold almost immediately so I continued to create and list them and am still doing that to this day!
B:  That is amazing; it must have been meant to be.  What is your creative process like and from where does your inspiration come?
GW:  My creative process has become more of an effort in recent years simply because I have to manage my time much more carefully to keep up with orders and just running my shop in general. I typically decide to make new creations when I have found inspiring flowers, vintage hats, or other supplies. That is when I feel most creative and bursting at the seams with ideas.
B:  That's always my favorite part of a project too, seeing something new and having ideas just brimming over on what I could do with it.  What is your favorite thing that you've created and why? 
Scarborough Fair Crown
GW:  I think my favorite creation to date has to be my Scarborough Fair crown. It had these tiny pink velvet vintage flowers on it and little taupe crystals. I wish I had kept one for myself because they sold out pretty quickly and I still to this day get requests for it, but unfortunately I cannot recreate it anymore since the florals were a vintage find.  
 B:  Those unexpected vintage discoveries are the most exciting.  Speaking of the unexpected, what has been the most surprising thing you've learned or experienced during this endeavor?
GW:  Through running my own Etsy business I have been most surprised by two things. The first being how much work is actually involved. It consumes literally every ounce of energy I have. And the other surprise has been how very kind my customers are. I am always blown away by the sweet feedback and kind messages I receive. It really makes me go the extra mile to try to make customers feel special, because I know everyone has their struggles in every day life and the Etsy community is a great place to take time to share kindness. 
B:  I agree on both of those.  The amount of work that goes into running the shop can sometimes surpass and even overshadow the creative part, but the customers are so wonderful that they really make it worth it to keep going even during the toughest times.  What do you think the future holds for you and Gardens of Whimsy?
GW:   As for the future, I would simply like to continue creating crowns and see my shop continue to grow. I hope to gain more stability through the seasons so I can worry about advertising and money less and focus on creativity more.  
B:  You are so talented; I wish all that for you and more.  Thank you so much for chatting with me! 

See more of April's beautiful work at GardensofWhimsy.etsy.com

or follow her on instagram with @gardensofwhimsy

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pucker Up: ootd

    Print sweaters?  Love them!  And when they have an unusual print like these hot pink kisses, I love them even more.  Now that the temperatures are dropping, it's time to pull out the pullovers and start layering.  This year I've decided to skip the drab solids and go for something daring.  I fell instantly in love with this Lovely Lips Raglan Sweater by Forever 21
    Though it is sold out online, I found it for only $6 at a resale site.  The only bummer about a lot of these sites is that they won't ship to me here in Japan.  I have to have them sent to mum and then she bundles and sends my purchases over to me.  It takes about a month for me to get the things I order, but it's worth the wait and I'm ever so grateful to have such a wonderful mother.
    This sweater arrived a bit stretched out.  The care instructions said to hand wash and lay flat to dry.  But since it was only 18% angora and 82% nylon, I decided to ignore the instructions.  I put it in the washing machine on the "Hand Washables" cycle.  Then put it in the dryer on low heat for 20 minutes.  I checked it at 10 minutes and then again at the end of the 20 and it was fine, no shrinkage.  Since it was still damp I put it back in for an additional 10 minutes at high heat. 
    The result was that it took out some of the sag and quite a bit of the loose hair.  So, while I can't recommend going rogue on care instructions for anyone else, every now and then it pays to ditch the rules.

Shop the Look:

Sweater by Forever21.com
Button Down Shirt by Banana Republic
Flats by Aldo
Necklace from Forever21.com
Jeans by INC
Cupcake purse from Amazon.com

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Creamery Cutie: ootd & Dress Review

    Often I take my time deciding whether or not a dress is worth the price tag it carries.  Sometimes that works in my favor and the dress goes on sale.  Sometimes I wait so long that the dress sells out.  In the case of ModCloth's Creamery Cutie dress (also known as the Matilda Dress by Dear Creatures), I waited too long.  
    It didn't help things that Zooey Deschanel wore it on some show and had everyone clamoring to get one.  Which is pretty much what always happens when she wears a dress.  A good rule of thumb is if you see Zooey D. wearing it, and you really like it, track it down instantly or it will be sold out by the next day.  It's happened to me enough times that I've finally learned my lesson. 
    So, the dress was gone, but not forgotten. Not by me.  About once a month I would do a search on the resale sites for anything by Dear Creatures.  I saw this dress pop up twice in the wrong size.  Then after months of waiting it came up again and in my size!  At long last the dress is mine, and just in time for Blue November.  I adore it so much, I'm currently looking for its twin in the red/gray combo.


    The material for this dress feels like linen, so ironing the wrinkles out can be a bear and keeping it wrinkle free is even more of a challenge.  Another couple more downers is that it does not have pockets and the zipper is enclosed at the side.  Those enclosed zippers don't seem as effective to me as one that opens at the top.
    On the plus side, the skirt is lined and the design is fantastic.  I purchased this dress in XS which is normally for a size 0-2.  Based on the way it fits me, I'd say it's too big for size 0, but great for a 2 or possibly a 4.
    The colors are soft blue, gray, and white stripes, and although the bow and accent ribbons can appear yellow in some photos they're actually a chartreuse (greenish) color.  It's a really great palette, it feels like spring without looking too much like an Easter egg.
    Overall, I love it and would recommend this dress.  Even second hand, the price can be a little high, so be sure the condition is worth the price.  Happy Hunting!

Shop the Look:

Matilda Dress by Dear Creatures

Cupcake Purse from Amazon

There's an Apple for That Cardigan from ModCloth

Pink Cameo Ring is Handmade

Hailee Heels in Flint by Dolce by Mojo Moxy



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Northern Exposure: How to Cover a Plunging Neckline

   
    Did you ever see a beautiful dress (probably on the internet where it's most difficult to tell how something will fit) and you were so excited to get it home and try it on, only to discover it was much more revealing than you realized?  Rather than wear it and expose more of "the girls" than you're comfortable with, that dress sits on the shelf gathering dust or goes back to the store for some braver soul to wear.
    A few weeks ago while browsing ThredUp, my favorite resale website, I came across a cute plaid dress that looked a little short in the skirt, but I figured, "hey, it's a wool dress and the temperature is dropping, I'll only be wearing this dress with tights.  So, literally and figuratively, I'm covered." (Just a little side note here:  if you're new to ThredUp, use this link to sign up and you can save $20 off your first order http://www.thredup.com/r/WKVOY5
    
    The dress arrived and true to my initial assessment, it was a very short skirt.  What I hadn't expected was the very low neckline on this strapless dress.  So low in fact that I have no idea how this dress is supposed to stay up.  
    I was pretty down about it; I don't like feeling that I've made a bad purchase.  After all, who makes or wears a skimpy wool dress?  It's absurd!  If it's cold enough for wool, it's too cold to show skin.  But, it was also a sort of challenge, and I love a good challenge.  Could I do something with this silly dress?  
    I knew I could return it, but I decided to put it in the "idea" closet and think on it for awhile.  After about two days the light bulb went on and I had not one but two ideas to make this difficult dress a keeper.
    This piece leaves so little to the imagination that I wasn't terribly comfortable doing "before" pics.  The fabric is so thick and yet I'm so exposed that I feel like I'm wrapped in a towel.  Not to worry the ideas came and I'm going to use this dress to show you a couple of simple ways to cover up that unwanted northern exposure.
     The natural tendency is to use a lace camisole to cover cleavage.  I use this trick all the time and I really think that every woman should own at least one black, one navy, and one ivory or white lace camisole for this reason.
    However, since this dress is strapless, a camisole just wouldn't work, but it did put me in mind of something in lace as a solution. After a quick dig in the dresser, I found the perfect top.  
    So, for this first outfit, I simply put a lacy three quarter sleeve blouse underneath.  The neckline on the blouse could have gone a little higher and still worked with this dress.  I also brought some balance to the color palette by adding a burgundy heel and some extra warmth by adding these black cotton tights.

     For the next look, I started with a sleeveless chiffon top that has a peter pan collar,  The black bow brings the eye down to flow into the dress, and the mustard yellow cardi, while not part of the plaid color scheme provides a great pop of color.  I kept the shoes black since I didn't want to over whelm the eye and make the outfit too busy.

Shop the Look:
Fox Earrings from Claire's
Dress is by French Connection from ThredUp.com
Long Sleeve White top is by TopShop
Peter Pan Collar Top is by Forever 21
Burgundy Heels & Black Heels are by Qupid and Purchased from ModCloth.com
Black Flats are by Soda
Yellow Cardigan is second hand

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Little Matryoshka

    I've loved matryoshkas, also known as Russian nesting dolls, for as long as I can remember.  I don't know many children who are instantly infatuated with them. Most outgrow the fascination, I did not.  The funny thing is I don't own any nesting dolls.  But, Japan loves matryoshkas too and they're featured everywhere here: fabric, juice glasses, stationary, curtains, blankets.  
    A couple of years ago ModCloth had an Eva Franco dress with a nesting doll skirt.  It was absolutely gorgeous and at $295 it was absolutely out of my price range.  (That's where the fabric comes in handy and I hope to post pics soon of the dress I'm making.)  But while I was searching for this fabric last month, I came across this adorable purse and since there were only two left, I bought it without hesitation. The last one sold within a day, so I have no regrets.

     I knew just the dress I'd use for my first outfit with this little babushka.  Something sweet and pastel to provide a little contrast to the black bag, but also match the cheeks and face.
    So, although this bag has sold out at the shop where I bought mine, if you do happen to come across one in you own searches, I recommend purchasing it.  For a novelty purse, it's quite spacious and seems to be very well made and of good quality.



    I'm including a pic here that is just the outfit sans purse, because I really want to highlight in this post the effect an interesting purse can have on the overall look of an outfit.  A belt would help to give it a visual break up at the waist, but the purse really takes it beyond being just average or nice.  
    Novelty purses like this one may not be your thing and that's OK.  The idea is to choose an interesting purse to perk up your look.  What makes said purse interesting can be any number of things like its shape, color, print, pattern, or a combination of those.



Shop the Look:

Purse is from accessorize.com
Dress is Sunny Girl
Cardigan is Mak from ModCloth
Shoes are from Charlotte Russe

Necklace is handmade

Friday, November 13, 2015

That Lil Blue Dress: ootd

    I reeeeeeeally liked this dress by Dear Creatures, but all the reviews were pretty negative about the unflattering fit.  So, even when I found it on sale, it was never low enough to justify the risk.  However, during my search I came across Anthropologie's Harissa dress by Lil. 
    This is  the one that started it all; the dress that launched Blue November.  The dress was pre-owned, but in great condition.  It looked so much like the dress I'd been searching for, but with a much better cut and I think it's a lovelier print and color too.  I couldn't find photos from Anthropologie's site, most likely due to the fact that this dress came out in 2007, but it is even more lovely in person than photos could express.
    This brilliant blue with the white flowers sort of remind me of something from Lord of the Rings.  Everything about this dress is perfect, and I especially love the attention to detail on the back as well as the front.
I've already had a chance to wear it on an unseasonably warm day last week and this dress  is without a doubt my new favorite.  I've seen it pop up on several resale sites, so if you're interested, do a search every now and then for "Lil Harissa Dress" and one is sure to turn up sooner or later.



Something I always take time to consider when buying a dress is how versatile it is.  Since this is a cotton peasant dress, I didn't think it would be more than a casual dress.  But, when I tried it on with heels, I thought it looked pretty sharp.  A dress that looks just as beautiful dressed up with heels as it does dressed down with casual walking flats is a wardrobe essential.

These cute Teva walking flats were a gift from mum and I highly recommend them.  My sunnies and this kawaii France theme wallet were both found during our October visit to Harajuku in Tokyo.  The wallet is by a brand called Paquet du Cadeau (a Japanese brand as far as I can tell) and I absolutely adore it.  I am hoping to add a few more items from them on my next visit to Harajuku whenever that may be.
Shop the Look:

Dress by Lil from Anthropologie
Black Heels by Qupid
Walking Flats by Teva
Wallet by Paquet du Cadeau
Jewelry is handmade

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Roxana with Illuminated Perfume

    For this Artist Spotlight I chose the work of Roxana from Illuminated Perfume.  I was first drawn to her lovely photos and then to the names of her elixirs like Gracing the Dawn, an herb, floral and spice arrangement, Page 47, a nectarous fragrance, and Green Witch, a bouquet of scents dedicated to the Greek sea goddess Tethys, I knew there was more to this lady and her shop than meets the eye or nose as the case may be.  
    I am so delighted to present her shop, her story, and to get to know her better.  Roxana says of her work,  "I create organic perfumes with stories to remind us of our own essential nature and the connection with mother earth. These fragrances are mindfully crafted from the vitality of nature using whole essences from the plant world."
Bleu:  What would you most like for people to understand about your work?
Roxana:  The most important thing is that people understand that almost ALL scented products on the market, even those labeled as "natural" are made with synthetic fragrance molecules. These molecules are made with petroleum and were introduced to perfumes at the turn of the century during the industrial revolution. They are very toxic to humans, animals and the planet. 
B:  Roxana, was there a particular moment that you knew you wanted to enter the world of alchemy or was it part of a natural progression?

R:   My interest in alchemy became apparent during art school when I was introduced to alchemical imagery. The interest turned into a realization when I began to study aromatherapy and saw the connections between working with plant material to induce higher states of consciousness.
B:  The photos of your creations are very powerful.  It is a true testament to you skill as an artist to be able to visually represent scents.
R:   Thank you!
B:  What is your favorite scent or product that you've created and why?
R:  Hmm, I have many favorites, they are a bit like ones own children, I love them al! Some have a higher resonance with me personally. For example I have just released Fleurish and I am completely addicted to it, I adore the uplifting fresh jasmine notes and how it mixes with my chemistry. However, my favorite perfume I've created as a work of art is GreenWitch. The fragrance came about very auspiciously during a study group with other botanical perfumers. We had taken on the theme of "Chypre" and were each working on constructing a fragrance based on that family of perfumes which is are characterized by the contrast of bergamot in the top-notes with oakmoss in the base. I decided to do a "green" themed fragranced which progressed into including seaweed when I decided to create the scent based on the book "GreenWitch" by Susan Cooper. The perfume has gone on the win awards and is my biggest seller.

B:  As an alchemist, do you consider yourself an artist or a scientist?
R:  I am most definitely an artist although I do try to understand the world much like scientists do by deeply observing things, asking lots of questions, doing research and looking at different perspectives. I must say I am completely perplexed by how so many people take what they hear in the "news" as fact. Particularly when it makes absolutely no sense or is contradictory to the wellness of humanity. 
 


B:  What has been the most rewarding experience you've had from this endeavor?
R:  As I stop and look back on my life, I can see that this is what I was meant to be doing, there is no doubt and that quite profound feeling. I get great satisfaction from elevating peoples consciousness, even if it is something subtle like understanding the importance of native plants or the honey bee. Little realizations like that can have profound impact on civilization. I see it a bit like the concept of Chaos Theory how the flutter of one butterfly wings might affect weather patterns.
B:  That is a worthy calling and a wonderful feeling to know that you are where you are meant to be.  I look forward to what the future has in store for you.  Thank you so much for joining me today. 

You can find Roxana's creations at her Etsy.com shop  Illuminated Perfume
or visit her workshop in Agoura Hills, California