Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fear of Frogs

I am afflicted with ranidaphobia, the fear of frogs. Mice are cute, roaches I don't mind, but the generally benign frog, I couldn't bear to be in a room with.

Elizabeth Knight blackened sterling silver frog body brooch from Brooklyn-based boutique Old Hollywood

The thought of wearing anything made of frog sends shivers from my temples down to my tailbone. (Case in point, those monstrous little frog purses they sell around Baguio City, Philippines.) However, the idea of having a fleshless carcass of my feared animal pinned on my lapel somehow evokes triumph over my phobia.

on the table and on a dress form to show relative size

I'm a huge advocate of the transformative powers of an interesting brooch: it's the easiest way to take a generic jacket from bland to distinctively, intriguingly your own. It's also a painless way to get a bauble-averse man to wear jewelry: just attach a discreet, yet clever pin to a blazer and he could forget it was ever pinned on.

Oh what a delight this pin would be on a coat of creamy winter white!

Have a stroll through Old Hollywood's e-shop and find the frog body brooch and other fascinating little one-offs.

Elizabeth Knight's official site

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tone-on-tone Eccentricity

Eureka! I've cracked the code as to how the style greats keep their eccentricity streamlined: they go tone-on-tone.

In what I'd call the street style photo of the season, Korean model/actor Bae Jung Nam (alias: Jake) does his very own rendition of convoluted Francophilia in shades of navy. (via The Sartorialist)

I have always harbored a liking for eccentricity: it is, after all, the cornerstone of dandyism. I could never be a true minimalist. But much as my tolerance for weirdness has increased over the years, I still believe the best delivery of eccentricity is when it is elegantly contained within boundaries; streamlined.

Allow me to illustrate with sartorial idols, new and old:

Jake looking more pared-down in shades of gray. Note the laundry pin brooch and the purple belt. (via Pop Bop and Snap)

cheerful old chap in a donut-tied silk scarf and trench coat worn as a cape, all in shades of navy (photo by Tommy Ton for GQ)

And all-time favorite Robbie Spencer in a couple of versions his signature combination of severe haircut, tremendous scarf, and wool coat:

honeycomb knit, wool felt, and velvet, all in blue (photo by Tommy Ton for GQ)

rib-knit and tweed, all in charcoal (photo by Tommy Ton for GQ)

A style idol so old he was featured in a post on the first month of this blog, tailor Ross Hancock (center) in a fringed tapestry dressing gown over a suit in dark grayish gold, picking up some of the colors of the robe's pattern (worn shirtless, no less). Photo taken at an Esquire party where he was awarded "Britain's Best-Dressed Man". (via Esquire's Le Ross, Le Blog)

Going tone-on-tone may not be the only way to keep one's style weirdness at bay, but for kooks like me who deal with silk and fur and velvet and brooches on a daily basis, it sure cuts dressing-time to a fraction when you're relegated to just one section of your congested clothing collection.

Monday, January 24, 2011

DIY: Dandy Does Womenswear

Though I often look to it for inspiration, complicated old womenswear really isn't my realm. I find something charming in letting creativity grow within the set confines of menswear, and to be frank, an ease in just breaking the gender-mold and calling it a day.

But my dear sister came to me, asking for help: she expressed a need for something different to wear to her after-prom party. (This was after she had explained the reason behind such seemingly superfluous social event.) I was home and bored to the point that spurs craftiness, and thought I'd make a little project out of this.

So I took one of her favorite shift dresses and had my tailor render it collarless in clean, off-white denim.

I wanted to paint a print on the dress, but God forbid I do one more thing in paint splatters. I was vaguely inspired by Balenciaga Spring 2008's saturated florals in sharp shapes: vivid, graphic, feminine. I thought of experimenting with sponge painting, and drew up a plan.

The dress would be taped off in a V in front and a wide stripe at the back, to allow me to just paint all over it.

Here's what I did:

I taped off the shapes three times over, as tight as I could.

Then I created my painting implements: rounds cut out of dishwashing sponge.

For texture, I shaved off bits from the tops of the sponges. (Please note that the red nails are clearly not mine.)

I then lay on my first layer of color, twisted-on circles of deep purple acrylic paint: sullen, painterly buds. I let my blooms set with a hairdryer before adding another layer over.

Then a bright blue, slightly watered down to let the colors sort of run into each other and blend.

And for foliage to sustain my flowers: a bold grass green twist-sponged all over. I then layered all three colors about two times more for depth.

As a highlight, abstract stamens of pastel yellow applied with the end of a bamboo skewer, randomly dotted around in ones, twos, and threes.

I then (excitedly) peeled off the tape and hung the dress out to dry for about a day.

close-up of the texture on the finished painting-dress

Here it is worn:

vintage sunglasses, DIY handpainted dress, Aldo wedges

her hoof-shoes, a staple of the Brooklyn hipster ilk, and gift from yours truly

scarlet lips and tortoiseshell Persol 0649's

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Cooked Shirt

Kean Etro of the same-named Italian fashion house put together quite a charming instructional catalogue on how to customize the brand's white shirts with ingredients found in the kitchen. Chris from London sent me the link a few days ago and my jaw dropped in amazement.

The "Cooked" Shirt by Kean Etro

My favorite would have to be the shirt stained with blueberries. It harkens back to my elementary school days when I would read about shepherds in the mountains of Europe dyeing their cloaks in wild berry juice simmered in a big black pot for a very long time.

the recipe

The shirt is reborn in the most vivid shade of magenta by way of blueberry juice. The addition of whole fresh blueberries gives it that very intriguing mottle of blue all over.

Chris, who sent me the link, asked for tips on how to set the stains so that they don't fade in the wash. Ironing or blow-drying the shirt might help, but ultimately, I think the charm in the cooked shirt is that the stain is organic and that fading or discoloration are all part of it being natural. If the stain grows dim, then bake it again in the berries?

The recipe for "Shirt baked in the oven with blueberries" and other dishes ("Shirt dipped in coffee," "Shirt cooked in salt") can be found here.

Photos via Etro

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Tour of My Tailor's

It was about time I put a face to the tailor behind all of the projects this blog has been witness to. I spent many an afternoon hanging out at my tailor's when I was home for the holidays, and I thought of snapping some photos around the shop to share with you, my dear readers.

With a crown in the logo and the words "haute couture", my tailor's storefront is what I'd call humbly bold.

Mang Jun is master cutter and owner of Toppers, and is the only person I deal with when having my kooky clothing concoctions created. He is ace at fitting, but don't hesitate to go down to the smallest detail with him to have your garment look exactly the way you want it.

Mang Jun with the same comical smile he flashes when I haggle with him for discounts

And for a little tour of the shop:

swatches of suiting material

bolts of shirting fabric in different shades of white

and even more fabric to be fashioned into anything you imagine. I've got my eyes set on that green sandwiched between two blacks.

alteration notes over age-old clippings for inspiration

a shirt with a note to "put botton hole"

Mang Jun at work

Inside the workroom:

sewing machines and alphabetized shelves for every customer's last name

Mang Jun's wife, a head seamstress, at work

an exquisitely embroidered Barong Tagalog (the Philippine national costume) freshly finished

looking out onto busy Katipunan Avenue

The scene outside:

the auto repair shop right beside my tailor's

sleepy dogs and plants potted in plastic bags

I had been calling the shop's poorly-attended line to follow up on orders that were a little late, and after a bit of persistence, finally got them to deliver the last few pairs of pants they had to finish. I came home with this:

What they might lack in punctuality and refinement, they make up for with a down-to-earth and almost cheeky sense of customer service.

I love my tailor and it's high time you find the one you'd adore yourself.

Toppers Gent's Haute Couture
2277-D Katipunan Rd.
Loyola Heights, Quezon City
telephone: +6324367938

For my tips on getting things tailor-made, check out The Dandy Project Guide to Getting Things Tailor-made.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Matchy Matchy

For once, I wanted a shirt and a pair of pants so right for each other that I'd need never to dilly-dally about whether or not some other article of clothing would go better with either of them. So I had my tailor make me a matchy-matchy suit.

pin from the Brooklyn Flea Market, DIY barb-wire necklace, tailor-made matchy-matchy suit, Opening Ceremony side-zipped oxfords

When I came down to the garage where I usually take pictures, the entire household staff looked my way and chuckled. Whether they were laughing with me or laughing at me was immaterial; the idea that my sartorial choices could bring even a twinkle of a smile to the face of another already filled me with wonderment.

Why have we grown to have such aversion to matchy-matchy? A world where colors and prints sing in harmonious unison might not be such a bad thing after all.

The entire suit is done in a light blue striped seersucker of just the right weight: heavy enough to be sewn into pants but not too thick to be made into a relaxed shirt. I contrasted the classic seersucker with watercolor floral trim on one breast pocket, one sleeve, and a two-inch stripe on each trouser leg.

Much as I want to take full credit for this foolishness, I'm not the first to do matching trousers and a top. B. Store has done it in navy and white gingham as seen on Steve of Style Salvage, and Nicholas Petrou did it with chambray and ethnic prints for Spring 2011. I'd like to think I took the best of both worlds and evoked B. Store's gentlemanliness with a similarly "proper" fabric, seersucker, and then took a page out of Petrou's whimsy with a watercolor floral print of my own choosing.

The waistband tabs and the box pleats on the pants were also my idea, and I'm quite pleased with the way they turned out. It makes me wonder why we don't see much of these in modern clothing. (nail ring by Martin Margiela)

The pin on the collar is a spoof of a childhood favorite, Doublemint Gum, and the necklace is white leather barb-wire trim purchased from M&J in New York, hastily knotted at the back.

Opening Ceremony forest green side-zip lace-up shoes

All was right with the world when I was five and I knew that my dinosaur-print shirt went perfectly well with my dinosaur-print shorts made out of the same fabric. I might not look the sleekest or the sharpest in this silly suit but oh, to feel five again at quarter-life is the sweetest feeling.

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