Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Inspiration Interlude: vintage nightgowns

While I’m hard at work preparing for some pretty cool blog posts to come, I wanted to fill the meantime with some outfit inspiration pictures that I took with Mac Moss of MPA Photographics. Usually on this blog, I post pictures of outfits that are more or less meant to be worn in a public sphere then follow with written advice and commentary on how I styled the look. But part of my focus is to incorporate aspirations of outfit goals and other things I could only dream of wearing. I believe that inspiration posts are absolutely necessary for helping create a certain vision or aesthetic. And hey, a girl can dream, right?

I have in my possession a secret drawer of gorgeous nightgowns I’ve accumulated, some vintage and new. I’m in love with the delicate details each gown has – the silky, fine fabric, the dainty lace, the soft colors. But like most things we hold in highest favor, I rarely ever use the gowns for fear of damaging them somehow. How is it that the more we love something, the less likely we are to wear it? My excuse for never wearing these nightgowns is the fact that when it comes to nightwear, all my pajamas are a minimum of five years old and are selected only for maximum coziness. Plus, I hardly feel like being fashionable when I’m drooling in my sleep.

If I could ever muster the talent to design fashion, I would totally take inspiration for daywear dresses from nightgowns. They are incredibly comfortable and to me, they are the epitome of sexy. When I came up with the name “Harlequin” for a fashion blog, I kind of had these kinds of images in mind. The name does seem to resonate with lingerie, but it also matched my ideal for Haute Couture/Runway wear.

I'm very excited to announce that I will be posting exclusive outtakes of my shoot with Mac on my Instagram - be sure to follow me there to check them out in the very near future!

I don’t want to tease too many details, but right now I am assembling my next blog series where I'll be incorporating a specific theme throughout - and there are some other things, other 'projects' that I can't wait to unveil. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Happy Birthday Harlequin!

So I’ve never made a birthday post, although I’ve had this blog for several years, I’ve never thought to publish a post exactly on May 7th. And I really don’t know what to say - but I did want to share these photos that Cyndi of Anora Crescent Photography took because they’re kind of special to me. And you know what’s different? This is one of the few times I’ve ever tried smiling in photos. Isn’t that weird? I realized I don’t smile often in photos. Like, never actually. Too busy trying to channel some sort of model fierceness, I guess. And then while I was compiling these pictures together, it kind of brought back memories as a kid when I never smiled with my teeth  in pictures because I was so embarrassed by them for so long – first, I had really crooked teeth, then I had braces for several years. I remember someone later on finally told me that you shouldn’t care about how your smile looks, so long as you’re smiling. And the encouragement helped. And then life happened, and I got to a point where I didn’t even remember those old feelings – old insecurities were replaced with new ones. Life is funny like that.

In lieu of birthday nostalgia, what I also find cool about these pictures is family jewelry I’m representing. I’ve worn some of these pieces before on this blog. One of my very first blog posts was one I modeled “family vintage” with a skirt, handbag and jewelry that all belonged to my mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother. The tagline was “four generations in one look.” I’m wearing the same necklace from that post: it’s my mom’s pendant with my grandmother’s pearls that I restrung back when I used to make jewelry. The bracelets and the rings are also thrifted vintage from flea markets and other consignment.

I bought the tartan I’m wearing while I was in Scotland – it’s touristy, but I’m so glad I have it. It’s so cute and warm. It makes me feel like an American Girl doll or something. Especially with this cute embroidered coat I bought from Forever 21. It’s so fancy!

I’m getting ready for my birthday weekend celebration! This is what happens when your birthday is on a Thursday. I’ve still got Friday to go through until it’s the weekend!

Monday, May 4, 2015

For The Right Occasion

Where oh where do I wear this? That is the question I ask myself most when styling a look. It’s safe to say anything we choose to wear is informed by what circumstance or context we will be wearing the items in question. I don’t know about you, but I never assemble an outfit without thinking “is this too much for where I’m going?” 

Date night at a quaint martini bar in downtown Mebane? Let’s pick out a flirty, bright spring dress with beige heels. Rock concert at a cool club in Raleigh? Bring out the black leggings with mesh cut outs and a crop top with ankle boots. Low key night in hanging out with friends? High waist jeans with a t-shirt is fine by me. Imagine mixing up any of these outfits and places - how totally awkward would you feel!

Usually, my outfit-planning routine is this: Enter closet. Consider the evening’s events and destinations. Mix and match until I find the desired look. (Oh, if only is was that simple. Try on about ten different outfits, leave them scattered around your room. Yeah, that's more like it.)

I look back through these wonderful pictures taken by the awesome Anora Crescent Photography of Greensboro, NC and am reminded of those last days of winter. What strikes me most about these pictures is how perfect this outfit blends in with the environment. When modeling, it’s hard to imagine the perfect location to shoot some of these outfits. I have to think to myself, does this look read grungy, urban, industrial setting? Does it look like something that needs a nature background? And of course finding these places are a challenge. But Cyndi, the photographer, suggested taking these pictures at a lake, and now I can’t think of a better place to wear this outfit. Or maybe I’m just recalling how serene this place was. As I was looking out over the lake, there was this perfect moment where I watched birds fly across the lake and it was really beautiful and poignant.

I talked a little bit in my last series about “committing to the look” and wearing all items that connect in some way to each other to create a cohesive look. I’m really glad I got shots of this jewelry set, because I’m really excited about its authenticity and origins: it was given to me by my sister who bought it in Blowing Rock, NC, many years ago. The sweater jacket that I’m wearing from Forever 21 has a pattern that reminds me somewhat of Native American art - (so I wrote an entire rough draft on the topic of cultural appropriation vs. appreciation because I really hated the idea of calling this look “Native American” themed. Too much ink has already been spilled over this topic in the fashion blogging community already; there’s not much more I can say other than I hate using this kind of terminology to describe an outfit, and as conscious consumers, we should be respectful when borrowing themes from other cultures and ask ourselves important questions like what our relationship to a certain culture is, what do we hope to gain by borrowing a type of attire, and so on.) The Minnetonka moccasin fringe boots were the perfect choice in piecing together the perfect winter look.

Sometimes I feel like my style is all over the place. But what I think I’m really attracted to is that feeling of taking on the personality of what I wear. The girl in these pictures is enjoying the view, embracing the lively fringe boots that seemed to move even when she didn’t, and is comforted by a warm winter sweater that closely resembles a bathrobe. 

I guess the places we go and the experiences we gather are perfect homes for our style and outlook on fashion.

Monday, March 23, 2015

How To Style Bold Printed Leggings part III

Here’s the final installment of my series on how to style leggings with bold prints! And I’m wrapping up the series with another set of art print leggings, this time from another great artist, Alphonse Mucha. I’ve always loved his Grecian/Romanesque style portraitures of women. 

Look one: Anora Crescent Photography

For the first look, I used a black mini-dress that was perfect for the leggings – the hemline ended right above the beginning of the print. I really can’t wear this dress with much else because of the length, so it’s great for pairing with leggings. Again, I chose this dress for its solid black color, but it also had a unique design around the collar, so it felt more than just a plain black dress. For the whole ensemble I went with all gold accents, especially in the accessories. The necklace, belt, and shoes all shared the theme of solid gold bars. I love being able to connect items in this way!

This was my first time working with photographer Cyndi of Anora Crescent Photography and she did such an amazing job capturing both the boldness and femininity of this look. We were in a downtown setting and it was very windy and cold that day. This was our first set of our session together and I cannot wait to publish the rest of the photos. It was such a joy collaborating together. Check out more of her work at her Facebook page or website in the links!

Keeping with the trend of solid-colored tops, I chose navy blue for the palette of this look. This quarter-length shirt from H&M was a great choice because I love the cut out lacey shoulders to add just the perfect amount of flair. Adding something lacey complimented the femininity of the figure on the leggings. Since I went with navy blue on top, I chose a dark blue braided belt with a large gold medallion piece. This is actually a “family vintage” item I own (it was my mom’s back in the 80’s and I’ve since confiscated it.) Savvy readers might have noticed by now that the majority of the looks (minus set number two) have contained belts of some sort. I feel that belts are a great way to turn leggings into a pair of pants, or at least make them feel like it. Since the belt is rather gaudy, this look said to me go crazy with accessories. I like tons of accessories, but in my everyday, on-the-go lifestyle, too many accessories would drive me insane. I think I may do a series in the future just on how to style accessories.

Do you remember that old abandoned house I shot at from three posts ago? These shots were taken in the bathroom of the home and in the barn nearby. Loved working with Nina on this second shoot! 

So let’s do a short recap on all we’ve learned about styling bold printed leggings!

Solid color tops are perfectly ok to use, but you never want to downplay the look with nothing but a solid color v-neck or t-shirt. Although you do want to keep the top more on the plain side, some sort of embellishment or elevated design will balance the boldness of the leggings with a top that’s just tasteful enough. Also consider texture – a silky shirt or one that has a sheen is ideal for being enough to stand on it’s own. If you do want to incorporate other designs or patterns, go for something easy on the eyes, like a muted stripe or repeated pattern. With leggings, you can easily opt for heels or for flats, depending on where you’re going and needed level of comfort. 

One topic I wanted to address about most of the looks, namely the second and third set, was about how to capture the entire vibe of a look while being aware of all pieces that you’ve coordinated for the outfit. With the second look, I consciously embraced the art nouveau theme. I chose every aspect of my style around what fit that art theme – I wore hairstyles that worked with a braided gold headband so that both looks spoke to this light, airy statuesque goddess woman archetype. I selected accessories that matched the color palette of the pants. Essentially, I built each look around the color, design, and texture of the pants. I love doing this with most outfits, it’s easier to build from one foundation and work your way up. Even with this final look, I really considered Mucha’s art when selecting my pieces. I wanted to use items, accessories and styling choices that looked as though it came from the same world of these leggings. This might come across as too over the top for everyday wear, but because of this attention to detail, these looks (and photos) are among my favorite that I’ve published. Capturing the vibe of a look is so much more than just matching pieces together, it’s about executing an idea to it’s fullest. You’re already wearing a bold, eye-catching design. Do you want an outfit or a statement?

Thanks for joining me in this series! I'm planning on several more extended series in the near future, but for now, I'm returning to the individual posts on specific styling advice. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

How To Style Bold Printed Leggings part II

For the second part of the series on how to style bold printed leggings with two looks, I’m wearing what’s got to be one of the most amazing designs on a pair of leggings I’ve ever come across.

Let me pause for a moment and explain to everyone how I really believe I might have missed my calling in life as an art history major (although I majored in English, I did take two elective art classes which partly satisfied my obsession.) I love art. I love old art, I love modern art. I love almost every style of art in the textbooks. I think my most perfect date would be going to an art museum. I’ve always loved this painting from Gustav Klimt for its abstract romance – a couple encompassed by a vibrant art nouveau design, the male softly kissing the woman’s cheek, her graceful expression, the decadence of the gold leaf surrounding them – it is one of his more popular ones, after all.

Before I go further, I do feel I owe my readers full disclosure on the matter of how I came across these leggings. I was sincerely debating how I would answer someone if they asked me where I bought these leggings. Here’s the plain truth: I came across these leggings on an Etsy shop for a great deal (it was two for the price of one: the other leggings I bought from this source will be in the next post in this series.) They were shipped from China and that’s virtually all I knew at the time. I was so impressed with the quality and design of these leggings that I went back to order more because they had tons of different designs. When I went back, the Etsy shop was completely gone. Vanished. I did some research online months later and discovered I very unfortunately might have bought a duped or discontinued pair because these leggings might actually be from Black Milk, but are no longer around – here’s my evidence. There’s no tag on the inside of these leggings to indicate what company actually produced them, nor any evidence of a tag removal. Although I’m still unsure of what the whole deal is with these, I do feel I owe it to the manufacturers to link interested readers to a reliable source. After my experience though, I'm very reluctant to label one site or place as an official or reliable source, since I'm still not sure what the deal is. Since I've determined these leggings are no longer in production, the old pairs must be circulating in places like eBay or Amazon or what have you. A simple “Gustav Klimt The Kiss leggings” google search should result in some findings - I'll let you determine what's best. Now that that's out of the way, here's the looks I came up with!

Look One

For the first look, I went for a real party look. Black plain crop top to balance the leggings (the back of the top has a cute but simple strap design that is not pictured) and a hairstyle I can tell right now that I will frequently wear this coming summer. I call it the Grecian goddess hair. All you have to do is wear a headband hippie-style across your forehead and roll and tuck your hair in (it’s better when the hair slightly damp with some mousse, I learned quickly.) After wearing it all day, you’ll have some nice heat-free curly hair that evening. I forewent most accessories and opted for a long pair of earrings. I'm banking on people to know the painting and make this connection, but I totally picked out the gold wedges because it reminded me of the gold leaf around the painting. Alright, alright, I know, it's so minute, but it made me happy matching those items.

Look Two

The second look is ideal for cooler weather. Wanting to incorporate some other pattern instead of a solid color as I’ve been doing, I went for a thin gray striped sweater which was some awesome embroidery on the sleeves. I thought in this case with an intense graphic on the pant, stripes would be the only other visual design I could incorporate. I went straight for a flashy red pair of heels.

Stay tuned for the next and final look which is coming soon!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How to Style Bold Printed Leggings, part I

One thing that I promised myself I would do when I brought back Harlequin blog last year was to incorporate a sequence of styling series – essentially, to release a number of subsequent posts all related to the same topic or exploring the same theme. I’m excited to challenge myself for the month of March by releasing a series of three posts, starting this week, each based on styling advice for bold printed leggings!

In this series, I’ll be exploring how to wear the same bold printed leggings in two different looks: one for daytime, one for evening. I’ll show readers how they can dress up or down the leggings and all the nuances of accessorizing and styling the looks based on setting.

Who doesn’t love some funky pants? I mean, there’s no way you can wear these eye-catching designs and not feel an extra boost of confidence in your walk. I’ve always loved the convenience of leggings because they pretty much go with any top or dress. I started out like everyone else with my trusty old solid black leggings. I still love them, don’t get me wrong, but when I came across these Nasty Gal Milan leggings on clearance, I needed them in my life (they are no longer available to buy online sadly, but if you have a similar design, the advice remains the same!)

But the question remained: what on earth would I wear these with? The design, the most awesome part of the leggings, was also the most challenging as far as matching without going too overboard. When wearing these bold prints, it’s easy to want to keep your top as basic as possible. So I thought solid colors on top would allow the leggings to speak for themselves. But a solid v-neck would be so boring and would downplay the whole look. That’s when I considered the fabric type. These leggings are a stretchy nylon fabric; something silky would mesh very well. I chose this silky yellow top because although it was plain, which was just what I needed, the buttons had a slight embellishment that complemented the design of the leggings.

Look one

In the first “daytime” look (which is a little less bold than the second and perhaps a little more appropriate for most occasions), I buttoned up the top to the very first button and incorporated a thin belt which I found in a vintage shop. You might not be able to see in the pictures, but it has two lions on it which I thought connected with the Milan vibe of the leggings. I rolled up the sleeves to my elbows and wore a casual flat shoe. This is a very easygoing, comfortable vibe while still being bold and outgoing.

Look two

Photography by R. Kooy

For the “evening” look, I used the same top (note: in the coming blog posts I will actually use a different top altogether. I wanted to play with the versatility of using one top for this look to show how you can dress up or dress down the same items.) Having rolled up the sleeves even further, I left the first few top buttons undone and tied together the bottom pieces to turn it into a crop top (tie it just like a shoelace without making the bows!) I think the most challenging part of this second look was picking out the right shoes, which I settled on a pair of black wedges.

Also, I don't normally model my pictures with any handbags, but I absolutely had to feature my awesome handbag and wristlet from Fossil! I'm so in love with this eggshell blue color. It had such a nice cohesion with the leggings. When I thought about doing a series on how to wear bold printed leggings, I wanted to showcase how you could confidently wear each look out everyday and what better way to do that than by incorporating the everyday necessities of a wallet and handbag. 

Stay tuned for the next look featuring another pair of bold printed leggings!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Accessorizing Basics: Clip-On Earrings for Clothes


I’ve always found beauty in dilapidated buildings. It’s one of my small pleasures to explore rundown places, especially ones with strong character. Those places are the perfect canvases to imagine stories as a writer. 

This was my first time working with the amazing photographer, Nina Tellier, and she couldn’t have picked a more interesting place to work in. She's a fantastic photographer - please check out her body of work in the links above!

These photos were taken at an abandoned lot on the outskirts of Greensboro. It was a very old house judging by the layout and the rate of decay. Beside the house was an abandoned barn, so I assume whoever once owned the house must have worked in the barn and stables. This place had apparently been forsaken decades ago. All of the windows had been broken and glass lie shattered everywhere, but the long sheer curtains remained in tact and swayed eerily in the breeze at all times. With no protection from the elements, the carpeted floor sprouted giant moldy spots in many corners. There were gaping holes in some of the rooms, so every step Nina and I took was calculated and cautionary. You entered into the house through a long, narrow front porch which lead into a large open kitchen connecting to the other rooms. One room clearly belonged to a child at some point; the wallpaper print had preschool cartoon images of barns, tractors and farmyard animals repeated across the walls.

Sadly, Nina had learned this house and lot would be torn down sometime this month (there's a good chance it already is as I write this.) Many people had been there before, partying or generally vandalizing the place. To add to the air of creepiness, Nina learned of this place from a model who had done a zombie photoshoot there. In the kid’s room, there were buckets of fake blood splashed onto the walls.

Perhaps the most hilarious part of this story to me was how after we explored the place and came up with picture ideas, we began to shoot, and not after but two pictures, all of the sudden we heard a huge SLAM coming from one of the back rooms. We were both paralyzed with fear and had barely just begun shooting. Of course, the wind had simply shut one of the doors, but the blood and overall creepiness added to our paranoia.

I’m absolutely in love with these pictures – but the irony is that the main style advice I planned on discussing is completely covered by my hair in the majority of the pictures, which I totally hadn't realized until afterward. I’ve been using clip-on earrings to dress up my collars a lot this season. It’s a very simple trick that instantly elevates any outfit into something more formal. The clip-on’s that I have were actually given to me, so I’ve found alternate ways of using them.

Clip-on earrings are generally always inexpensive and easily found in most secondhand thriftstores or vintage jewelry shops. They are ideal because they won’t damage your clothing like a pin might, such as leaving puncture holes. These are easily an interchangeable seasonal accessory, but it does look especially nice when you pair them with sweaters. In most clothing retailers, I frequently see shirts with decorated collars. You can also add clip-on’s to a jacket with rolled up sleeves to give the illusion of button cuffs. I actually used this trick in another photoshoot wearing an embroidered jacket – can’t wait to post it!

I’ve read somewhere before that you can also use clip-on earrings to dress up a pair of flats or a scarf, but I don’t feel as comfortable doing so because the clip-on's don’t feel nearly as secure in those places as opposed to a collar where it might be more easily noticed if one happens to fall off.

Here are some pictures to use as inspiration for styling your outfits with clip-on earrings:

Here's a close up of the shirt and clip-on's I wore for the shoot. The shirt already had a unique embroidered print that is nicely offset by the gold and pearls.

Use clip-on earrings as faux button cuffs. Looks very vintage and expensive!

Dress up a solid colored shirt with clip-on's that have a texture or pattern. This would look really great with a sweater over it.

This is a sheer black button up shirt. The color black perfectly offsets the shiny, gaudy clip-on's.

I would love to see how anyone else has used clip-on's to spruce up an outfit! Leave a picture below in the comments.