January 30, 2012

High School Dance

For those who do not know, I was homeschooled my whole life. I began attending a community college at 16 so I could earn both college and high school credit. Around age 9 my desire to attend a "real" school subsided. In High School there were times when I would wish I went to "real" school so I could join in all the fun things I was convinced High Schoolers did. Basically in my head High School events were something like this (excellent wardrobe included), and summers were spent as such. The first time I ever actually went to a high school was while in college and I went home and thanked my parents for never sending me there (it was to the High School I'd have gone to, and it was very much like a horrific prison.). Besides I had a great childhood, with wonderful friends I still am close to today! However I find that being a grownup in college has led me to partake in some of those rituals I thought were a part of the thing every teenager should do. Like late parties filled with really weird happenings, and that was before the drag queens showed up... Turns out I didn't miss much honestly. Except for maybe prom, or dances and stuff, those might have been fun right? The equivilent of prom for me was spent in a dumpy building eating terrible food and watching what might have been the worst "dinner theatre" play ever written, did I mention it was old west themed? I wore a cowboy hat.   Actually while I was home I found an old SD card with pictures from my senior year on it. This was my prom attire:


Sarah doing her best Rachel Leigh Cook impersonation, and me not wearing a bra like a boss. I totally disregarded the inch and a half strap rule, because I was the only senior and didn't get to go on the harbour cruise like I wanted to (did I mention the the seniors were supposed to be the ones who chose what we did??). Also my jewelry was vintage, and yes my hair was dyed black. Oh to be 18 and a total dumbass.



Such little babies. I'd like to say we improved with age. But...

Not really.


Look at itty bitty Fraser! And I have no idea why we were at my grandparents house....

There was no dancing at our "proms," though my Freshman year a friend of mine and I began to swing dance to Harry Connick Jr. which apparently branded us as hussies. There were really pretty silly looking back, but at the time they were THE thing. But it's been nearly seven years since I graduated high school, (don't remind me of that again.) and considering the fact that I wasn't much a fan of it the first time, I am not so keen to repeat any bit of it. 

Note to self: Blowing up balloons on the 3rd floor when they need to be on the second floor is a bad idea.


Me and Jordan!

Pretty Melissa!

My darling girl, Laura!

Those dumb balloons....

So when Choir Ball was announced, I shook my head, rolled my eyes and wondered why on earth anyone would want a high school dance while in college. I wasn't going to go. Until I found out that all of my close friends were going and with a sigh, I caved into peer pressure just like I was 18 all over again. Everyone was making plans for their gowns, and pre-gaming, which is apparently a thing I didn't know about until a week ago, and decor, and disco balls, and dj's.... There was a part of me that wanted to throw up. Even up until the last minute I considered not going. I'd spent hours helping decorate (stringing balloons on fishing line is not a career option for me), being irritated with the lack of help (especially since I wasn't supposed to), and having 20 minutes to get ready in the end. I arrived an hour late. Most everyone else arrived an hour and a half late. I was chatted with by people who reeked of cheap booze, surrounded by polyester in the most heinous of colours, listened to a playlist that actually nearly killed me, was so hot I began to wonder if I should have just stayed in California, and y'know what? I actually had a good time. I know, I didn't expect it either. The freshman wore their prom dresses, actually a lot of girls wore their prom dresses, others wore club wear, I paraded around in a vintage satin and lace dress and Nanette Lapour heels, and looked awkward as I learned that "dancing" means hopping up and down and grinding on someone's leg. I laughed with friends who all looked lovely, I ate far too many cupcakes, and left promptly as soon as the thing was over so I could crawl into bed like the grandma I am. And in a way I felt a little satisfied. I finally got to go to prom, and actually wore something I loved, and had a magically weird night and laughed with people I really love. So all in all, it was a success. 

Choir Ball
Me, Hatz, Laura, and Jordan!

Choir Ball

Laura, Allison, and me. Allison: "That is just not going to be a good picture!"

Choir Ball
Images c/o Erica.

Jade, Me, Xandra, Laura, Melissa. My hair got weirder looking as the night went on...

January 27, 2012

A little bit country, a little bit Groucho Marx

A friend of mine and I were discussing the abstracts we had to write for one of our classes to get us thinking about our paper topics. We kept commenting on how we had these ideas in our heads- words that stuck out- but nothing really connected together to make any actual sense on paper. The idea made perfect sense in our heads, not so much when it came to words (I finally settled on the false idea of nationalism in the Classical era into the Romantic using Wagner and Debussy as examples. My world is weird). Frankly that is how I feel about the inspiration I have been gathering for my wardrobe. I feel it is best summed up in the rather hillbilly-esque sequence of the following music video.

My father may disown me for what I am about to say, but I have a definite soft spot for country music. Actually let me re-phrase that. I adore traditional (or spins on traditional) Americana Folk music. I love the fiddle and banjo and mandolin, and am even quite partial to the spoons. And I also really like Taylor Swift. Shut up.

But that is not the point. The point is I have been really drawn to this idea of a lazy kinda country-in-the-city mixed with other bits. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I live in the middle of nowhere now, but whatever the reason I am dreaming of frizzy hair, and cotton shirt dresses, and sturdy simple frocks, oxfords, boots, and short heels, straw hats, berry picking, picnics by the river (which will hopefully be less flooded...) and late, nights looking at the stars. I'm actually excited about the coming summer!

I am really feeling inspired by the idea of an almost prairie thing, mixed with a few of the summer norms (like my beloved nautical wear!), and a kind of 20's-Dustbowl-late-30's-early-40's-end-of-the-depression-beginning-of-the-war-meets-70's-earth-child-Appalachian-Mountains-meets-silent-film-star-hair-meets-Scandinavian-farm-wife. I told you it was complicated ( and I realize I pretty much just covered 40 years of very different styles). But speaking of that sort of feel, when I was flying back to Corvallis at the beginning of the month, I watched the History Channel programme Hillbilly, and it was completely fascinating! I know there's some sort of ancestry of mine that hail from the Appalachia Mountains via Scotland, but it's not something I had ever really looked into. But this show was seriously incredibly interesting. If you get a chance to see it, I really do recommend it. I mean, did you know that NASCAR was developed because of moonshine bootleggers? Seriously, go watch it!

Glasses- Forever 21 years ago
Cardigan- Anne Taylor Loft
Dress- Q's Daydream Vintage Etsy
Belt- Vintage from another dress


But back to the point: Today I gave it a go, and I have to be honest, this is the most "me" like I have felt in a long time. I think this past year I got really lazy about my style and as a result had a bit of an "identity crisis." But this, this feels right. I think the problem I have is that people who wear full time vintage usually tend towards the glamour side, which is fantastic and absolutely beautiful, but that is just not me. I'm kinda rough around the edged and that's not going to change anytime soon. I like my hair frizzy, and my clothes to look well loved. For the past few months I've had that idea swimming round in my head, but couldn't really explain it until now. Sure I love my red lipstick, but don't expect it to be perfect because it will fade and I will not re-apply it. Of the Vintage "Types" I am definitely much more Girl-Next-Door than Vixen. And I honestly think that will a bit of fixing, my wardrobe can properly reflect that better. I'd like to add more colour and patterns, but the basic idea was fantastic!


ignore the flying hand. I was losing my balance...

I do have to tell you that when I was leaving my room I checked the mirror and laughed because I looked like a 40's school librarian. Y'know the old-maid looking kind? Well I am actually quite fond of the look, so I went about my business. When I was walking into class this morning, a friend of mine took one look at me and said "Hey, Don Draper called. He wants you in his office." I was really confused for a moment until it was explained that I had the whole slightly-sexy secretary thing going on. I guess what they say about the eye of the beholder is true... This was an attempt to winter-ize the idea. The sun did come out today, but it was still cold enough to warrant tights and a sweater, and wet enough for boots (just pretend I took a picture of the boots.). And yes I did mix black and brown (not that you can really tell!), and I quite liked it. I've also been setting my bangs (which I am currently growing out until I get bored with that) each night in two little pin curls at the top of my forehead. I really love the way they come out so fluffy and crazy-like! As for the glasses, no they are not prescription. Yes I did buy them at Forever 21 eons ago. But frankly I like them (and actually they have UV protection on them, so I just told everyone they were sunglasses), and I think they're cute, and I always wanted to wear glasses, but am only in need of a very low reading glass, so there. Besides, at this point I am really way beyond giving a hoot about other people's opinions of my attire. If it makes you happy, go with it, and ignore all the snotty barely 20-year-olds making catty comments. Or just thank them for their comment. This is apparently far more irritating to them. Not that I know anything about something like that....

My mother hates these glasses on me because they obscure my eyebrows and make me look like Groucho Marx.


January 24, 2012

Sewing: Fabric and Patterns on the cheap

Look for vintage sewing manuals for neat tips and tricks!

I have been wanting to do a regular sewing segment here for quite a while to answer questions I am frequently asked about my sewing, and to share tips and How-To's (unlike yesterdays...). So today I am going to start this by covering two of the topics I get asked about the most: Where can I find cheap fabrics and patterns?

First thing to discuss is what does one mean by "cheap." It's such a relative word. Frankly if you are really interested in "cheap" go to any shop that sells mass-produced clothing. I love Target, but let's be honest, most of the clothing there is poorly made. These places are great for "disposable" basics. Target's t's are great and about $8 a pop! Not too bad. And if you are a clearance shopper like myself you can often get things like that for even better prices.

This brings me to a discussion on why we sew. I sew for many different reasons: It's harder to find the kind of clothes I like in my size, I like looking like an individual, I like the creative freedom, and in the last year I have come to adore the process of creating. For me sewing isn't just functional, it's mental, and spiritual, and emotional, and physical all coming together in (hopefully!!) perfect harmony. Many sewers come into sewing with the attitude of get it done fast. I myself was that person, I'd stay up all night making a dress for an event only to have a shoddily made dress that I didn't love. A good rule of thumb is only wear things you love, and following that only makes clothes that you love. Yes, some things will not work out, your taste may change, you may realize a project was just totally impractical, but I always look at it this way: when I donate those things to a thrift shop, and the next girl picks them up, then she will have something that is beautifully made and works for her, and you had a learning experience. Everyone wins.

1940's cotton that became a Sorbetto I never showed you!

So getting back to "cheap," sometimes sewing is not going to be the cheaper route. Fabric can be expensive, patterns are expensive, then there's the notions, not to mention machines, etc, etc. And frankly the time you put into a garment is probably going to be twice as much that goes into a mass-produced garment. In the end your time alone might make something more expensive. So, as I said "cheap" is a relative term. I prefer to use Low Cost. Yeah, it's mostly the same thing, but for me cheap refers to the quality, not the quantity. I already know it will take up some of my time, but how can I keep the actual costs down? Well here are some ways!

Vintage fabric for a few dollars.

Thrift Shops 
This may seem obvious to some, but check your local thrift shops! Most will have a selection of older patterns, and even some vintage ones. It can be tricky to find ones in your size, but we will discuss that in another post. The point is don't be afraid to buy things that are too small or too big. And these are usually super inexpensive. The most I've ever paid for a pattern at a thrift store is 29cents, and the lowest is about 15cents. Obviously the price will vary from one store to another, and it may be tricky to find them at your thrift shops, but never be afraid to ask an employee if they know if the store carries them.

Thrifted patterns!

Also check the linens section of thrift shops. While there will be some actual fabric yardage there, there is also tons of sheets to choose from. Those fantastic floral sheets from the 60's and 70's make perfect summer dresses! Look for table clothes as well. A round tablecloth can become a circle skirt with a little math and a pair of scissors. Sometimes you can also find bundles of sheet sets for a few dollars. So many possibilities! You can easily have 5+ yards of a fabric this way. Use your imagination and think like Maria von Trapp, curtains can become a lovely frock worthy of a song!

Chain Craft Stores
When it comes to shops like Joann's, it is important to remember that these are NOT sewing shops. These are craft shops. Yes they carry fabric, but compare the quilting fabric section to the apparel section. The apparel fabric is always a smaller section. Now I am very fond of using quilting cotton to make regular clothes. What about the drape? Well wash the stuff first. Fabric in fabric shops has been treated to be stiffer anyways (which if you live in CA or OR (I'm not sure about other states/countries) is why they have a sign above fabric about the health hazards of the chemicals in them. ALWAYS WASH YOUR FABRIC!). Obviously if you are making a gown a quilting cotton isn't going to cut it, but often times these cute prints are fairly inexpensive and perfect for blouses/dresses/skirts. And look for sales, especially around holidays or season turnovers. You can get some amazing deals this way. If the shop has a coupon mailer sign up for it. It is totally worth it. If you have children, sign up in their name, have them sent to your work and home, send them to your husband/boyfriend's work. When you get a mailer, cut out the coupons and slip them in your wallet so you don't forget them! Sometimes the Sunday paper will also include coupons for places like Joann's or Michael's. I hate coupons, but I love my fabric store ones!

Summer Spot Dress
A perfect example of quilting cotton for a day dress!

As far as patterns go most of your big chain craft stores are going to carry the big 4 (Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, & Vouge). They may carry other lines too, but these 4 are standard. Every so often one or more of these goes on super sale at Joann's (I'm not sure about other craft stores) and you can find them for 99cents or at most $1.99. I only ever buy the big 4 when they are on sale. Usually there is a 10 pattern limit, so if there are more than 10 that you want check another store, or make eyes at the weird goth guy who is always giving you discounts. (I really miss that.) *Helpful Hint*: Visit the company's website before you hit the store. Make a list there of all the patterns you are interested in and keep they in your handbag. This way you don't need to fight with other shoppers for a pattern book and can just grab what you came for. If this location is out of your size, you still have a list for the next location/visit.

Online shopping always comes with a small sense of foreboding.  I am a touch person when it comes to fabric shopping, so I am usually a little nervous to buy fabric over the internet. But each time I have, I have been very pleased with the result. Places like Fabric.com have weekly sales and sometimes discounted prices. The only drawback to consider is that sometimes they do not have enough yardage for one cut, which most of the time wouldn't be a problem, but might be if say you were making a circle skirt. One of the perks though is that often it is easier to find special collections online than in stores. Do a google search for online fabric companies and just see the endless options available to you!

Lovely Patterns from (L to R) Victory Patterns and Colette Patterns 
When it comes to pattern shopping online, I really love it! Not only can you find vintage ones on sites like ebay or etsy, you can also find independent companies like Colette Patterns or Victory Pattern (which I am dying to get my hands on!). Sometimes these are on the pricier side, but I fully believe they are worth it for the size range, the instructions clarity, the overall design, and really the quality. No crappy tissue paper patterns! These are also usually Continentally produced, and for some of you may even be local (Colette is based out of Portland, while Victory is Toronto, Canada produced)! Colette ocasionally offers a discount code, so keep your eyes open for that. Another great source is BurdaStyle. Many of the patterns are member made, and are either free or only cost a few dollars. These print out on printer paper which you tape together. I actually really love these kinds of patterns. They are pretty sturdy (some of mine have far too many coffee stains!), and you can save them to your computer to print again, which is great for someone who has lost weight or wants to make something as gifts for multiple people. Also look around online for other free patterns. Most of you know my complete obsession with the Colette Sorbetto top, but there are tons and tons of other free patterns out there.

Other places to check:
Estate/Garage Sales are also something to keep in mind. They can be hit and miss, but check the description and keep an open mind. Again these are great places to look for linens.

Garment District!

Flea Markets tend to be a bit pricier, but there are some real treasures to be found for fairly little money.


Specialty Fabric stores tend to be in large cities, and if you live nearby they are well worth it! The LA Garment district for instance is a fantastic place to find fabrics and notions! I didn't pay more than $2 a yard for anything.

All of the above places are a great place to also look for notions (zippers, hem tape, bias binding, etc.). I lucked out once and found two huge bags each containing about a hundred zippers, for something like $5 a bag. That's like, 5cents a zipper! And most of them were metal (I hate plastic zips!). Keep an eye out for these. *Helpful Hint*: Old thread spools are beautiful, but using the thread is a bad idea. Vintage thread is usually made of a natural fiber that will have broken down over the years. These make beautiful decoarations, but are a bad idea for functionality.

Pretty Belt Buckles for ten cents each.

Well there you have it! I hope I haven't forgotten anything. I think the best advice to keep in mind is to just look everywhere, use you imagination, and have fun! If you have any questions, or an idea for a topic in this series, please send me an email at Fraxinilucia [at] gmail [dot] com.

January 23, 2012

Monday How-To: How to pretend you don't care what you look like at a 3 hours long night rehearsal. Working Title.

First Put your hair up in something messy that resembles a bun-ponytail hybrid. Pin it down securely because you totally don't care.

Second put on the deoderant you forgot to put on in the morning.

3rd, wear jeans, cuz you totally don't care

4. wear sandals. Nothing says, yes I totally am a Californian who doesn't care about The Man or rehearsal like sandals. Also you are sick of close toed shoes/boots/socks...

Fifth: Lace cami that shows off your bra, because you are way too cool to care.

Next, a Ironic Hipster shirt you totally did didn't buy in Portland years ago...

After that you'll want to add a cardigan because your feet are going to freeze. I recommend a cardigan you left in your dorm room wet before you left for winter break so when you came back it was in a jumbled heap. Wrinkles scream I don't care. Also make sure it doesn't match.

Add some bling. Especially if it is bling that reminds your director of you name and not your character's name which he has started calling you all the time and in choir when he can't remember you actual name and now he doesn't even say the character's full name but a nickname for the character which is Pam, which you hate.

Skip the watch and go with a big bangle. Just because you don't care.

You should probably wear earrings you bought during a personal style crisis that are so heavy you can only wear them for a few hours at a time.

Throw on the headband you wear to the gym because now it totally looks like you really don't care.

Schlop, and I do mean schlop, on some nailpolish because you so don't care.

And finally, put on some perfume your Mama bought you as a surprise. You might not care, but you should probably smell good.

If you're an overachiever, which you shouldn't be, it's a good idea to leave your music in your room.

And that concludes this week's How-To.

January 20, 2012

Rainy Days and Fridays

Corvallis has been declared a natural disaster area. Classes were cancelled today because the flooding is so bed you can't get anywhere. Everything has been eerily quiet. The news is reporting about the little girl that died in the flood, sirens blare, and a close friend found out some absolutely devastating news. So this is what January gloom looks like?

I actually had been making fun of people all week for their discussions on surviving January. "So this is actually a thing?" I'd say. "I mean I've heard of it, but I didn't know that this was actually something people took so seriously." I was mocked about my living in a place filled with eternal rays of sunshine where palm trees sway and everyone drinks cocktails out of hollowed out coconuts in their swim clothes while being serenaded by the Beach Boys. I planned on giving them the truth- triple digit heat, steroid pumped bros, pretentious suburban moms, plastic surgery, and cans of redbull- but y'know what? People need a California. People need a Hawaii. They need Paris, and Rome, and the Amazon. They need the Great Wall, and Picasso. They need something to dream about no matter how off base that dream is. They need to believe in some sort of magic in the world, that love is real and it exists and is attainable. They need to smile and laugh and look on the right side.

I've been told I am very good at comforting people. Maybe I am, but whenever it comes to things that really matter I always feel like I have no idea what to say. I try and make people laugh when they are sad. Without fail, if someone comes to me with a problem, I try to be funny, say silly things, makeup songs. But then the important part comes and you have to leave the humor behind. I try to give good advice, I try to say word that I think the person needs to hear, and to relate as much as I can. But in the end all I can do is share their pain and just try to be a friend. To hold their hand while they cry, and then say, we need some magic right now. So we watch something like Midnight in Paris, and for just a second the world is at peace. Beauty has returned and life has some meaning again. There is order in the universe. Put the pain and sadness is still there. And I am left with only the ability to pray, and give hugs, and hope.

And I can be thankful that my own life is blessed enough that I can at least try to be a blessing to others. So I will not let the Winter Blues get to me. I will wear red, and laugh, and try to be some of the sunshine I know so well. And I will listen to Karen Carpenter and smile and count my every blessing.

January 19, 2012

Life as we know it








As I type this the rain continues to pour down as it has since Monday night. I have learned some things about my feelings about weather. I love rain. I love snow. I really hate the two of them together. It results in sopping wet feet that you have to stand in during a very long rehearsal, slips and slides, and a grumpy Ashley. I am sad to see the snow go, but happy the slush is gone. I have been turned off from ICEEs for the rest of my life. But apparently the non-stop rain/not enough sleep thing I've got going on this week has led my brain to think it is totally okay to dress like a Hipster. Or like 10 year old Ashley desperately wanted to. My mom was very anti-grunge and I'm still not sure how I came to own jeans with ripped knees, that brown plaid flannel shirt, or the construction worker boots with lace trimmed socks. Such a trend setter...






I made a half circle skirt! I love it! I had to do some real math (ew) to figure it out, but man alive this is the best made garment I own. I hand stitched the waistband and hem. I've come to find that hand stitching things like that is actually very relaxing for me. I'd love to show you better pictures, but well, just continue reading. But the point is I am really fond of this shape on me, slightly fuller than an A-line, but not as full as a full circle skirt. It's much more flattering on my figure, and easy peasy to make! This one is made out of some Navy broadcloth from my stash. I wore this skirt three times this week. It's a keeper. Next time I'm going to line it, and make it out of two pieces (this one has just one seam!) to add pockets and maybe some hem detailing. I love projects like this that lend themselves to alteration!

Image from A Beautiful Mess

Oh how I miss having a real camera! I love my phone camera, it's actually fairly decent, but I miss taking pictures that come out pretty, and messing with settings, and looking like a tourist all the time. Speaking of which did you ever see this tutorial on A Beautiful Mess? I am dying to get this made before my dear departed camera is returned to me. (which I guess makes it not departed. I'm not sure, I've been studying German diction for hours on end and my brain is fried.) I was hoping to pick up some oil cloth before I left California to make mine up in to make it waterproof (which considering that a bottle of water that ended up open in my bag was the downfall of the camera, and the fact that it has rained for three days straight and everything in my purse is soaked by noon, is a really good idea.). I'm love this print a lot! I think I'll modify the design a little. Add some lens pockets inside and line it with a flannel maybe? I'm still playing around with the idea in my head.

Image from Etsy via Pintrest

Speaking of convienent DIY's I really want to make up one of these too! My poor phone and earbuds find themselves shoved in whatever space in my bag that is not taken up my water bottles or sheet music. I have some flannel left over from a nightgown I made (that I'd show you if I ever got my camera back.) and I think that would be perfect for one of these cute things!

My life has been taken over by the Opera. We're not even at the full rehearsal schedule yet. I was listening to a CD the other night after studying some of my parts, and suddenly was hearing everything in German. Not actual German, just made up German sounding words that were not actually being sung. It was weird and made me weep a little. I am slowly going insane due to this, which is how this photo came to be... don't ask. (also these are the bets wool socks on the planet and I cannot thank my sister and brother-in-law for them enough!) But I am so excited for this production! I don't remember if I told you all or not, but we're setting it in a Steampunk fashion and I cannot express how perfect this is for The Magic Flute! Our costume designer came in to show us all the sketches for our costumes the other day. Mine is based off this photo (if you click through to look at the board it's our costume designer's inspiration board so you can get an idea of what some of the costumes are going to be like.). Ringlets and all (except the hat.). Too, too excited! Now if I could just get all the German down!




Sometimes I think people get the wrong idea about my feelings towards my hair. I really love my hair. It's pretty great honestly, and I like the frizziness and mind of it's own. I especially like my hair when it's rainy. This week I had some great hair days. Then I had this hair day:
Which looks tamer than it was in real life.

And that's my world right now. How's yours?