What to Wear: India Vacation Style

When on vacation, I wear things I’d never wear to work at home. And I sew many of the vacation clothes myself because I can’t find what I’d like to wear in stores. With an upcoming trip to India, I’m thinking about what to take this time.

Sometimes I take lengths of fabric and just wrap and tie them around my waist to make a skirt. Sort of like Nicole Richie is doing here. I think these are pants but I get the same look tying fabric as a skirt:

Nicole Richie in Sari Skirt

In fact I believe the skirt I would have worn in the sari-shopping profile pic there on the right was a mauve paisley patterned silk charmeuse length of fabric that I just twist around and tie in place at the waist. It weighs nothing and folds so small it fits in the palm of your hand – perfect for travel! Because of this it shows up in vacation photos from several countries.

I like to sew loose drawstring pants with printed fabrics, like these from Mango:

Patterned Pants from  Mango

And I even bring out the beaded textiles to wear, like this one from Teté by Odette for Zaitegui:

Beaded Textile Tunic

Beaded fabrics are a bit fancy, but where else am I going to wear them during daily non-vacation life? To the grocery store? Filling the gas tank? Starbucks? Those are the regular stops of my life in the U.S. and, well, maybe beaded fabrics would make them more interesting!

I also pack beaded sandals. Like these from Oasap:

Beaded Sandals from Oasap

I like wearing elegant looks like flowy pants and tunics in monochromatic colors, like in this image by Ann Street Studio (surf around their tumblr a bit – gorgeous fashion photos):

Moroccan Tunic via Ann Street Studio

But I also like wearing wildly colored and printed bohemian looks. Same spirit, really, different style. This skirt was from Boca Leche:

Wild Pattern Skirt from Boca Leche

Beyond good looks, many of these have a practical purpose: to stay cool. In hot humid weather, I prefer loose flowing clothes. Definitely not anything constricting like jeans! Knit fabrics also feel more comfortable to me than woven. I’ve never gotten used to the woven fabric blouses you wear with saris, and would rather wear a dressy knit top under a sari. There are silk jerseys with a nice sheen to them that could make elegant sari blouses.

The other issue is cleaning the clothes.  I have had clothes that shrunk dramatically — and it wasn’t because I ate too many paper masala dosas! — and bright color clothes that faded because they were laid in the sun to dry. If I’m going to care about whether something gets ruined, I wear it very little or when I know I’ll be in comfortable temperatures, like in air conditioning most of the time, and I won’t wash it until I get home to the U.S. Obviously beaded textiles can be problematic to clean, so I will tie a beaded fabric like a sarong over slim knitted pants. That way, I get the skirt look and the fabric is protected.

Our apartment in Chennai has a washer and a dryer, and an outdoor covered patio to hang clothes to dry in the shade. So at least in Chennai, there’s a bit more control over how clothes are treated during cleaning.

The other benefit of sewing skirts and drawstring pants for India vacation: I will use fabrics found at deep discount prices, so the clothes are cheap. And I’ll use very simple sewing patterns so they sew up fast. I choose fabrics that I don’t have an emotional attachment to (yes those of us who love textiles know how this can happen). This way, if something gets ruined, it’s okay. Well not okay but it doesn’t bother me.

If you sew, I hope this gives you ideas for sewing a vacation wardrobe. You can make great clothes with basic sewing skills. How? Here’s the formula: choose a very simple pattern, but use a special fabric. In fact great prints and unusual fabrics, I think, are better when used with very simple sewing patterns.

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These Harem Pants: Yay or Nay? (Vote Below)

I’m not sure about admitting this. But I’ve been obsessing over these Eileen Fisher harem pants for awhile:


Whether you love these or hate them, here’s a fun poll. Speak your mind!

[polldaddy poll=7231673]

{ Thank you everyone for honest opinions! :) Keep on votin’! }

For me to like them, the uh, crotch, would have to be long like the above photo. Not like this next pair which makes me want to reach into the photo and hike these pants up:


Here’s a video of the preferred harem pants in motion:


Now, I’m pretty sure those are Eileen Fisher employees. So would these women wear them “IRL” or are they wearing them under duress? You know, we have harassment policies that ban employers from doing lots of bad things to employees. But what if an employer says, walk around in these harem pants while I videotape you … or else no more free coffee for you. I’d wear the pants. Going without coffee is far more painful.

So do “real women” wear these harem pants? Why yes.

Gretchen of Gretchen’s Closet, a real person rockin’ the harem pants:


Um, so she’s the only real life person I’m finding so far. I’m sure others are wearing them. They’re just not posting SEO-optimized photos online. And maybe kudos to them for doing other things with the times of their lives.

So instead here’s more models:


Oh my goodness, for the photo caption I originally wrote “Meet the Harem.” Maybe with one woman in the photo it would be cute, but with many women, not the best combo of photos and words!

So why do I like these? Because I like to wear black, they’re a lil’ bit global and I’m just not a white button-down shirt and khaki pants kind of girl. But what do you think? I’m not afraid to ask! Like, really ask, in the poll above. It’s okay, you can be 100% honest.

[polldaddy poll=7231673]

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Red, White & Blue Isabel Marant Dress – And a Sewing Lesson

The Fourth of July post was all Americana. But my style is more of a global blend. I love this red, white and blue dress by Isabel Marant with a mix of patterns:


You can see the crazy quilt effect of all the patterns here by the handkerchief hem:

Isabel-Marant-Dress-2It’s like upscale boho.

The price is upscale too, and because I’m showing this here does not mean I would spend that on dress, even if I had that money to spend on a dress. I look for inspiration no matter the price. There’s inspiration from Isabel Marant, and there’s inspiration at “Tar-jay” too.

If you can’t find a similar dress retail, you could easily collect a mix of patterned fabrics and sew a dress with handkerchief dress sewing patterns. This is a 70s and 80s style, so look for vintage sewing patterns on Etsy or eBay.

The Isabel Marant fabric is silk georgette so if you want this lightweight drapey effect, choose a pattern that will work with light fabrics.

If I were to do this, here’s a “map” of how I’d make “new” fabric by sewing together several different coordinating fabrics, with each blue color here being a different fabric:


This DIY idea might be for intermediate sewers who know how to keep a fabric on grain. Being “on grain” is important so the fabric and the seams connecting the different fabrics don’t become distorted and twisted.

If you’re a beginner sewer and want to do this, read on for some info about grain …

Have you ever worn a top or pants where the side seams or the sleeve seams moved over or twisted after you washed it? Like, T-shirts where the side seam is suddenly moving toward your stomach. Or pants where the side seams do the same thing. This can happen with knit and woven fabrics. When this happens, it means the manufacturer did not lay out the pattern “on grain.” It’s a flaw when it affects how your clothes hang on you. But a lot of manufacturers do it because it lets them make maximum use of fabric – it’s more economical for them.  I have a knit Anthropologie cardigan – that I paid full price for which I rarely do but I loved it – where one sleeve wants to twist around my arm like a chocolate/vanilla twisted ice cream cone! You know how those ice cream cones look. That’s not how a sleeve is supposed to look! Or feel. It feels weird. You can keep tugging and pulling at it, and it will still twist. There’s nothing you can do to stop it.

So the solution is, prevention.  If you’re going to sew, learn about laying out fabric “on grain.” If you’re a beginner sewer, here’s a few resources:

Wow that was not expected – I intended to share a global red white and blue dress, and somehow got to sharing fabric grain tutorials! But if you’re going to piece together fabrics yourself, that’s important. Another idea is to look for a fabric that already has a mix of patterns in it, like this one shared by Kisaran Kimono Fabric on Flickr:


You could easily sew a dress with a vintage handkerchief dress pattern with a fabric like this, and you’d get the look of the Isabel Marant dress!

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How to Wear Black in the Summer

This is a sidebar from usual home decor. Because it’s getting warmer and I wear a lot of black, and every summer I struggle with how to wear black in hot weather. What about, just not wear black? Can’t do that, I’m really stubborn that way. I thought maybe other people want to figure out how to comfortably wear black too.

Nowadays we have Pinterest to save us from all our problems (even if it’s just to avoid them while surfing pins!). Here are ideas I found there that show how to wear black in the summer …

This Polyvore board shows strapless black to keep your shoulders cool, with strappy sandals. It feels very airy and the browns tone down the black:

How to Wear Black in the Summer via Polyvore

Notice the current hem there, it rises a bit in front. Hey keeps your calves and ankles cooler, if nothing else!

From Eileen Fisher, a breezy open knit gray sweater over black. I have a black sweater found at HomeGoods that’s very similar to this and wear it every summer. The open knit truly does feel cooler:


Those also seem to be knit pants. ? I find loose knit black pants are much more comfortable in the summer than more “structured” woven pants.

Here’s another Eileen Fisher look, a tiered floaty silk dress and a sheer cropped cardigan with bold global accessories, and I would wear it with these Antik Batik sandals:


Now I am not trying to go GOOP here. You don’t have to shop at Neiman Marcus and Net-A-Porter. Seek out these looks wherever you like to shop! (But if anyone did buy those sandals at Net-A-Porter or elsewhere in a 6.5 and wants to unload them, ring me up! Love them!)

If you like black handbags, this combo of materials lightens the load a bit for a summer look. Mary Lai bag featured at InStyle:


Here’s another option for a summer handbag to wear with black outfits. I love this. From Adele Dejak, it combines Bakuba fabric from Congo with leather:


Wear black in loose, lightweight casual fabrics, like this shirt which is/was from Hapi by Hapiru. Both the fabric and the shape are “light” even though the color is dark:


Here’s another example, a lace and linen V-neck top by Nili Lotan (visit her site – lots more lightweight black looks there!):


Instead of solid black, work it into your look in a print. I love this, but with pants though! Seriously you could only just stand still there getting your photo taken wearing it this way, but it sure would keep you cool, huh? It reminds me of kimono:

Black Gray and White Print

Sorry I cannot find the original source. Too many tumblrs! Even my handy dandy original image locator app is overwhelmed by the tumblrs.

If you like to wear black no matter the season, and you swelter in the summer for the sake of your favorite color to wear, I hope this gives you ideas of how to get cool. You can find more looks at my Pinterest board, Decorate My Body. Lots of black, neutral colors, sandals, a little bit boho and global. The things I like to wear.

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