Mighty Life List
Oct 20 2010

The Massive Pom

This hat, right here, is how I feel about Fall.

Oct 12 2010

Mighty Closet: Our Wedding

Our photojournalist wedding photographer showed up at the hotel at 7 a.m. I was wearing a silk robe that I got at Thrift Town in Sacramento for $10. It’s still one of my favorite things.

I changed into one of those horrifying velour tracksuits that was very popular at the time, and one of our groomsmen remarked that I looked like a movie star trying to go incognito. Mostly I just wanted a zip-front something to wear all day so I could change out of it without ruining my hair and makeup. Also I might have wanted to practice a cheerleading routine or something. You never know.

(That kissable bundle is little Evan Frasier; I was his nanny briefly. He is 43 now.)

My dream wedding dress was Audrey Hepburn’s bridal dress from Funny Face:

I’ve mentioned before that I have clothing nightmares. We were on a tight budget when we were married, and I was accordingly horrified by the idea of spending $1,500 on a dress.

I was set on a short dress, which I thought would be easy to find, but absolutely no one wore them at the time. When I say no one, I mean I went to every bridal salon and department store in San Francisco, and found exactly one short, white dress, for $1700 dollars. It was not cute.

Three months before the wedding I still didn’t have a dress, and I was beginning to hyperventilate and have tooth-griding nightmares. For those of you who’ve never been married, lots of women order their dresses a year out, and many bridal salons look at you like you’re nuts if you expect less than a six-month turnaround.

Bryan finally had enough of my whimpering and rocking in the corner. He said, “We are going to the Gunne Sax outlet and buying something.” We ended up buying two dresses, one that would become the bodice for $80, and a size 14 tulle monstrosity for the skirt, which was about $100. I asked my dear friend Lisa (Hi, Lisa!) from Stitch Bitch if she could lop off the skirt and smush the two dresses together. She did it for less than $100, because she loves me. This is how we ended up spending less for my dress than we did for the bourbon at the wedding. Fact!

Lisa didn’t want the dress to be too heavy, so instead of using 300 layers of tulle, she put some horsehair ruffs under the sides of the skirt to make them stand out. This meant that the skirt was nice and poofy, but I could still use the restroom withoutout aid. Bonus.

I got a satin headband at Britex, and my mom-in-law sewed a circle of tulle to a metal hair comb the night before the wedding. I’d hoped for a cage veil, but this was in the hours before Etsy, and they were impossible to find. I thought about skipping the veil entirely, but when my girlfriends pinned my veil in my hair, it was the moment I realized I was really getting married.

I grew up with a gardenia bush in the backyard, so I had a gardenia in my hair and one for each of the bridesmaids. They wore them in their hair or pinned to their shirts as they chose.

Thanks to tequila and vigorous dancing, my hair flower fell out, and no one mentioned it because they didn’t know I had 14 more in the back. Word to the wise brides, extra hair flowers ladies.

I also wore red shoes, which was strange at the time. One of our guests mentioned that he particularly loved my shoes because his mother always said red shoes were for little girls and whores. I like to think I fall squarely in the latter camp:

Later, I pulled on a red sweater with a rhinestone brooch, because it gets cold on the docks in San Francisco. The sweater was a merino Bennton cardigan, and I still wear it.

Bryan’s suit was a striped Donna Karan cashmere blend on sale at Nordstrom Rack. His tie was Calvin Klien. My maiden name is Berry, so the boutonnieres were Eucalyptus leaves with unripe blackberries, all collected on the wedding site. We asked our groomsmen to wear black suits, and we got them matching ties.

My bridesmaids were from size 0 to size 14 and were 4’11″ to 5’10″ — we even had a pregnant attendant — so I had to find something that would be flattering for everyone. I chose white cotton wrap tops and red wool skirts from Foley’s, which I asked the bridesmaids to wear full length or have hemmed to the knee as they chose. My bridesmaids actually did wear the pieces again, and the whole outfit was $70. Separates!

Pro tip: When you’re getting married, it’s helpful to have girlfriends who are all knockouts. I love you, girls.

Old? A penny in my shoe. New? My dress. Borrowed? My lipstick. Blue? My engagement ring, which is a giant ’60s era cocktail Aquamarine. Oddly, I do not have a close up photo, but it is lovely.

For the rehearsal dinner I wore a red, heavily embroidered shift, of which I also cannot find a single photo. By the end of our wedding I was so through with red that I could barely look at a tube of lipstick without shuddering, but seven years later I’m coming back around.

Oct 4 2010

Flashback Monday: Women’s Fashion, Part III, Hats

In an effort to gather all my writing in one place, I’ve begun to post articles that originally appeared elsewhere, or work that has been gathering dust on my hard drive. This piece was originally published by the The Morning News in 2002. Thanks to Rosecrans Baldwin, for the edits.

How to Wear Women's Hats - Mighty Girl

Flappers never had bad-hair days. They lopped off their tresses, tugged on a cloche, and headed out for an evening of Charleston and bootleg gin. What’s more, flappers wore comfy dresses shaped like potato sacks. They could wear whatever they liked; who the hell notices when you have that darling bell of a hat on? And so, you see, hats make life easier and loads more fun.

Unfortunately, hats have gotten a bad rap since they fell out of quotidian fashion in the late 1960s. Have you ever flirted from beneath the brim of a fedora, shaded your unblemished complexion from the summer sun with a straw hat, or sipped cappuccino thoughtfully in your beret? Of course not. All but a very few of us have abandoned hats to the crazy ladies.

Did I say crazy? Pardon me, I meant ‘eccentric.’ By eccentric I mean, ‘enamored of hot-glue guns and their ability to affix small, fake birds to felt.’ These are not the kinds of hats in which we’re interested. That is, unless you’re dressing as a Hitchcock movie for Halloween.

* * *

Milliners will tell you that anyone can wear hats. They are lying.

Some women do not look well in hats, just as some should avoid turtlenecks or string bikinis. That said, many women believe they look terrible in hats, but in reality simply don’t know how to wear them. There are five ways you can dramatically increase your odds:

1. Find a color that complements your skin. Hats are closer to your face than anything else you wear. Hence, if the color isn’t flattering, it will be especially noticeable. I know it’s the sweetest hat you’ve ever seen, and it would look so great with your boots, and it matches your eyes, and so on. Try the hat in a natural light. If it makes you look sallow, put it back.

2. Wear your hair differently. Many women just plunk a hat on top of their everyday hairstyle. If you already have a wide face, this can exaggerate it to an unflattering effect, especially if you have long or full hair. If you really like a particular hat, but just don’t think it works on you, try pulling your hair back in a tight chignon or a low ponytail at the nape of your neck, or pinning the front sections back. At the very least, tuck hair behind your ears. It may improve matters dramatically.

3. Choose a hat that works with your face shape. If you have an oval or triangular face, you’re one lucky bird. You can wear almost any hat, and you can wear it as far forward or back as you please. You can also pick any kind of brim without looking like you’re wearing a life preserver on your head. The hat’s crown (the part that fits down over your head) shouldn’t be narrower than your cheekbones.

If you have a round or square face, wear your brims on an angle when possible. You’ll want the crown of the hat to be at least as wide as your face. Hats with a wide, high crown will work especially well.

If you have an oblong face, stay away from tall hats. Wide brims will counterbalance the vertical stretch. You might also try pulling the brim down to your eyebrows to shorten your face and to hide excess forehead.

4. Make sure the hat is angled to its best advantage. If a hat doesn’t look good when you first try it on, you may not be wearing it far enough forward or back. Many hats, especially stiffer hats made of felt or straw, will also wear better when you tilt them slightly. Try angling your hat to the right or left, and look at it from every direction in the mirror. It may look good from the front, but terrible from the side. Keep fussing until you find a position that works. If you can’t, assume that the hat is ugly and keep shopping.

5. Be sure you’re wearing the correct size. The average female head size is twenty-two and one half inches. If the hat comes down over your ears, or falls off easily, you’ll want a smaller size. If you fuss with your hat, or if it makes your forehead itch, go up a size or two.

Hat Quality
If you’re headed to Ascot this year, you’ll want something nice. A quality hat is relatively easy to distinguish.

Straw-hat making is a time-consuming endeavor, as they are almost entirely hand woven. Most of them are produced in China and the Philippines. Straw is braided, and then sewn into shape. The most prized straw hats are produced with a fine straw, in a small, tight weave. A hat of good-quality straw can take a weaver up to twenty-five hours to complete.

If you’re buying a felt hat, look for wool felt, peachbloom, or fur felt, which is made from rabbit fur. More expensive felt hats are often lined. Hat trim should be sewn on to the hat’s form, and not glued in place.

Many of the hats you see on the street are ‘factory hats.’ Mass-produced, and made of lower quality materials, these hats are practical and mostly casual. Designer hats are a step up. They often have limited production runs and are made of high-quality materials.

The haute couture of the hat world is called ‘model millinery.’ These extravagant hats are hand-sewn and pieced together using only the finest materials. They’re often made for a single customer who is attending a particular event, after which the design is retired.

Storage and Repair
Store more expensive hats in hat boxes to keep them from getting dusty or discoloring in the light. Line the box with tissue paper and place crumpled paper in the hat’s crown to help it hold its shape. You may want to overstuff the crown a bit so the brim of the hat lifts up from the bottom of the box. This way the paper supports the hat’s weight, and the brim doesn’t become distorted. Add enough paper to your box so that the hat will not move if the box is jostled.

Don’t wear hats in the rain, unless they are rain hats. Nothing damages a hat more quickly than water, except perhaps fire. Don’t wear hats in the event of a fire.

If you have a felt or straw hat that’s been dented, you may be able to repair it with steam. Put a full kettle on to boil and wait until it begins to steam consistently. Turn the heat down a bit, but be sure the steam still has a little force to it.

Place the dent over your steaming kettle and move your hat around until the steam penetrates evenly. (This should take about twenty to thirty seconds.) Remove the hat from the steam and use your fingers to push the dent out, and then blow on the affected area to cool it. Use caution when you’re working with steam in a small area: too much can exacerbate damage.

You can also make an old hat stiffer by steaming it thoroughly and letting it cool. This reactivates the stiffening agents milliners used to make the hat.

If all of this sounds too complex, or too burn inducing, most milliners will reblock your hat for a fee.

Hat Types
Hats are either brimmed or brimless and they take two forms—a hat or a cap. Milliners fancy up the basics with trims and detailing. A few types of hats and their preferred uses:

Alpine: Down-filled fabric hat with storm flaps for ears, neck, and forehead. Perfect for hunting wabbits or hiding winter hickeys.

Beret: Felt cap with wide circular crown. For coffee, commutes, scouting, miming, and youthful affairs with political leaders.

Chignon Cap: A piece of fabric that covers a bun. Ideal for naughty-French-maid Tuesdays.

Cloche: A ‘20s felt hat that resembles a bell. Useful for blocking unwelcome eye contact when you’re trying to read on the bus.

Cowboy Hat: Originally developed for cattle herders, it has evolved into a signal that you are attending a bachelorette party.

Derby (or Bowler): Domed crown with narrow brim that curls upward. Excellent for Charlie-Chaplin costumes.

Fedora: A men’s hat that has since been adapted for women’s wear. Brimmed, and made of felt with a lengthwise crease in the crown. Effective for modern-jazz-dance routines when worn with a men’s-style shirt unbuttoned indecently.

Newsboy Cap: Full fabric cap with visor. Great when paired with knickers for ironic rounds of golf at your local putt-putt course.

Stocking Cap: Knitted, with a long tail that often ends in a pompom. Good for midnight runs through town with a candle, or snowboarding in 1995.

Watch Cap: Knitted sailor cap that rolls down or up depending upon your warmth needs. Best stolen from a boyfriend just before you tell him you know about that girl.

Hats Off
Though a gentleman must remove his hat indoors, ladies can wear theirs wherever they like. However, don’t wear one in your own home when you’re hosting a party. Otherwise, it looks as though you’re about to head out someplace better.

Hats draw attention, so it takes confidence to wear one well. If you can manage it, other women will assume that you are more fashionable than they. Those women will be correct.

Sep 28 2010

Mighty Summit: Packing Light

This is everything I packed for the Mighty Summit in the Russian River wine country. As you might have surmised, it takes some time to decide what to wear in front of 30 bloggers’ digital SLRs. This is the third post in the L.L.Bean Signature series, so you’ll find a few of those products below.

Is this me wearing another shirt as a dress? Maybe. Maybe it is, Internet. I have seen photo evidence that this might be shorter than I expected, but whatever. I was amongst the team.

I wore this with jeans and sneakers while we were unpacking boxes from the car. Then I changed into the tights and boots for the welcome party, which involved cocktails, and sliders, and smart ladies by the pool. This shirt/dress is Urban Outfitters, the tights are Target and they’re grey, though you can’t really tell from the photo.

The equestrian boots you are from L.L.Bean. Let’s go ride horses, you guys! No? Do you want a tiny little hamburger? Yeah, these boots are perfect for sliders.

The next morning we had a pajama breakfast, and I wore my vintage red velvet Christmas Robe with a T-shirt and boxers underneath.

Many a time have I considered cropping this robe and wearing it as trench coat, but this is only my third year owning The Christmas Robe. I cannot resist its Donna Reed qualities, even though I can’t fully raise my arms while I’m wearing it. Passing out presents is so dainty when you can’t bend at the elbow. Or shoulder. Fashion!

This is what I wore for wine tasting in the ‘70s. The preppy ruffle sweater is L.L.Bean, the cha-cha skirt is vintage (you may remember it from Puerto Rico), and the bronze cowboy boots are from Buenos Aires, which means I particularly enjoy it when people ask me where I got them. (Ask me about my boots!)

Actually, boots story. Margaret and her family came to Argentina with us, and her main goal for the trip was to find a pair of cowboy boots. These were the only pair she loved, but they were slightly too small. She said I should try them on, and they fit me perfectly. She selflessly passed them to me, and I promised I would wear them into the ground. We high-fived over the boots at the Summit, where Margaret also presented me with an amazing vintage dress she picked up for me in Dublin. In conclusion, Margaret is a wardrobe sister.

This outfit is my favorite thing ever, you guys. I took our fiesta palette inspiration from this Kate Spade ad, so the colors were red, lemon yellow, robin’s egg blue, and plum/fuchsia. I wasn’t sure what I’d wear to the party, until I realized that I actually owned a piece in every one of these colors. Here’s a better view of the tights:

Liz is rocking that striped dress. I covet her wardrobe, so look for her in a Mighty Closet soon.

My dress is H&M, tights and shoes are Target Online, and the cardigan is vintage. The sweater is such an old favorite that there’s a huge hole in the elbow of one arm, so I wore the sleeves pushed up.

FYI, this entire outfit, including shoes, cost $40. POW! Sock!

This is what I’d look like if you showed up at my apartment unannounced at around 8 a.m., and I happened to be sabering open a bottle of champagne.

As you know, I try to pack jammies that I can wear as outfits. I was so tired the third day, I didn’t entirely change out of my PJs until evening. The heather grey v-neck tee is Old Navy, the leggings are H&M. (To hike through the redwoods I pulled on boyfriend jeans from Limited.) The versatile wrap sweater is from Ambience in SF. It’s my version of a sweatshirt. Speaking of which:

This is me trying to convince Andrea to get an American Apparel sheer circle scarf. I use it as a wrap, a scarf, a hood, a top, a dress, a sarong, an airplane blanket. Someday I plan to do a trip with only this scarf, a toothbrush, and a couple pairs of underwear and an Esquire Magazine.

This is what I wore to our farewell dinner at Barndiva. Turban, FTW! Natalie got this hat for me as a present, because she is rad, and because she keeps trying to steal my yellow turban, which she cannot have. The tuxedo jacket is L.L.Bean; which I’ll have tailored to fit more closely when baggy goes out of fashion, and then will wear for the rest of time. The weirdly comfy high heels are from Nordstrom Rack.

My dress is vintage, purchased to hide post-baby chub at a time when people were still asking me when I was due, ie: twelve months after I’d given birth. Those people can suck it.

Many thanks to L.L.Bean for sponsoring this post. All of their products featured here are part of the current L.L.Bean Signature Collection, so they’re available now on the site, along with many other cute things that you might want, eh?

Sep 25 2010

Cute Top

Sep 21 2010

Mighty Closet: Libby Nicholaou, Part II

I can’t wait to give you details about the Summit, but my laptop got rained on this weekend, so while I deal with some technical difficulties, please enjoy this Mighty Closet, which was all queued up and ready to go when the skies opened up on my hard drive.

You guys remember Libby, she’s been around these parts a lot. When we last checked in with her, she was running a local art gallery, then she worked with me for a while before she decided to return to school to study art history. While she waits on her school applications to be accepted, she’s working with SF MoMA and hostessing at one of the best restaurants in town.

Libby’s last Mighty Closet was about a year ago, so I thought we’d do an update. This is also the second post in the L.L.Bean series, so we’ve supplemented Libby’s usual vintage and thrift mix with clothes from the new L.L.Bean Signature Collection, which is inspired by vintage classics from their archives.

This is the kind of thing Libby wears on her day off, for brunches and impromptu reading sessions on the back stairs. She’s very intellectual on her days off.

The llama sweater is a vintage score from No No on Valencia, and the tank is from the Gap.

The plum cords are Stretch Cord Bootcut Pants from L.L.Bean, and her shoes are Sperry Topsiders.

These Harry Potter specs technically don’t have lenses, which is why there’s no ugly reflection in the photos. This fashion choice engenders strong reactions from strangers, who are either amused or disturbed by Libby co-opting the plight of the near sighted. You’re a monster, Libby. You have no idea how my people have suffered.

This is what Libby would wear to a casual dinner. Her skirt is American Apparel, and the shirt is vintage from Painted Bird. Her tights are by Hue, and the “pattern” is her tattoo showing through.

Her beloved vintage kicks are from Buffalo Exchange. I hear they are quite the hit at the parties in the U.S.A.

Her threatening, two-finger ring is from Therapy. And yes, for those of you keeping score, Libby’s entire wardrobe was purchased within about two blocks of her home.

The leather and metal earring was handmade by Libby’s friend, Fatima Flemming.

This is a dress I bought at a vintage shop a while ago, it was tea length and unflattering, but Libby had a vision. She took it and sliced the skirt off. Turns out it’s some sort of space polymer that didn’t even need hemming, and now she wears it out to drinks with friends while I shake my fist at the sky cursing the day I let it go.

These red tights are from Hue too, and the suede shoes are Heeled Penny Loafers from L.L. Bean.

Here’s what Libby wears to a museum event, or to move like a ninja in the dead of night. The pants are L.L.Bean and her shirt is another vintage find from Painted Bird. She bought the belt years ago at a thrift store.

This is a necklace worn as bracelet from that overflowing, rhinestone-heavy accessories shop on Haight Street. Neither one of us can remember the name, probably because it blinds you as you pass.

The awesome riding-inspired boots are from L.L.Bean. They are equestariffic.

Libby’s acrylic earrings are from H and M.

This is my favorite, Libby’s hip to waist ratio will make a grown man weep. The gold poofy skirt is HandM, and this is what Libby wears to work a MoMA event.

The lace scarf is a gift from Libby’s grandma, and isn’t that pretty much the perfect person to give a girl a lace scarf? Thanks, Grandma.

Shoes by Target.

The saucily unbuttoned top is L.L.Bean, and it’s very naughty secretary. Where did those glasses go anyway?

The top is rayon, which makes the collar floppy, so we pinned it up with a sparkly vintage brooch, which also keeps the scarf in place. We are geniuses.

Thanks to the team at L.L.Bean for sponsoring this post, all the L.L.Bean Signature Collection items featured in this post can be found on their site.

Sep 9 2010

Packing Light: Dublin


This is every item of clothing I packed for seven days in Dublin. I’m doing a campaign for L.L.Bean’s Signature Collection and they sent me a giant box of clothes, so I’m wearing a few of those items below. That means you can actually obtain some of these pieces, instead of cursing me when I tell you that everything you love was purchased at a vintage shop in 2001.

L.L.Bean Signature Silk Habutai Dress Polka Dot

For example, this perfectly faded brown dress with polka dots? It’s L.L.Bean’s Silk Habutai Dress, and it’s so Little Orphan Annie. Except it’s made of heavy silk, but who says orphans can’t have nice things? Jerks, that’s who.

Anyway, as I mentioned recently, belts are a challenge for me. I’ve been trying to up my game on that front, so I bought a few from H&M and this is my first attempt. I felt so pulled together, ya’ll. The cardigan I’m belting here is also H&M, but it’s from the men’s section, which is where they keep all the good stuff.

The grey tights are Target, and the magic travel boots are from Argentina. They’ve gotten me through more trips than I can count.

Let’s get a closer look at those blue polka dots:

Hello, little buddies.

This is my travel outfit, hence the action pose. It’s a knit dress I got at a thrift store, worn with an H&M elastic belt and the aforementioned tights and boots. I also wore a grey sweater wrap that I didn’t get a photo of, but you can see it in my New York post from a couple years ago. It doubles as an airplane blanket.

I’m wearing the dress on the way back home too, so I’ll be washing it in the bathtub while I’m here. Airplane germs gross me out. Another reason to do a quick rinse:

This is the dress worn as a top. I’ve cleverly safety pinned the sides to the outside layer of my Express Ultra Skinny Stella jean pockets. You can also use extra large safety pins to do a gathering effect on the sides of your dress, which is slightly more labor intensive, but arguably more effective. There are those boots again. I love you, boots.

The necklace is also H&M, it makes everything a little more current. Unlike these killer sleeves. What’s up 1983? We miss your economy.

I borrowed this sweater from Bryan who got it at Macy’s a few years back. He never wears it, and it’s super soft. His loss. That’s an L.L.Bean Tweed Skirt and army green tights from Target.

The circle scarf is H&M, and I love how easy it is to mess with proportions when you’re wearing it. Also, coziness.

These are my Rudolf Dassler PUMAs, which I adore, so of course they rub away the skin over my Achilles tendon. I’ve been trying to decide whether I strictly need that skin, so I’ve taken to tying them lower. This frees up a lot of extra lace, hence the creative lace tying. I like the way it looks, so I’ve been doing that with all my sneakers now.

This is a packing minimization outfit. We’re revisiting the cardigan, boots, and jeans.

I forget where the shirt came from, but I bought it because I liked the gathering around the neck and cuffs. You have to iron it like crazy though, and I only seem to have time for that when I’m on vacation.

The hat is hand knit, I got it at a thrift store where I get almost all of my hand-knit items. For the record, if someone hand knits you something and you send it to a thrift store? I’m pretty sure you need to go to confession, or sacrifice a goat or something. Or at least learn how to knit things that other people can then throw away — full circle.

I try to pack PJs I can wear as clothes in a pinch, so this is a tank top and cropped sweats from who knows where. I wear the tank under stuff for an extra layer if it’s cold. The comfy pants are nice if I get sick and want to be cozy, or if my flight is delayed and everything I’m wearing is coated in airport goo.

Chic librarian is my preferred look, so this is my favorite outfit for the trip.

These are L.L.Bean’s Cuffed Cropped Pant. They are fantastic. I’d normally wear them with a chunky heel, but we’re walking on cobblestones in the rain here, so these are cheap, destroyable flats from Target.

The cashmere cardigan is from the Alameda Flea Market, the Peter Pan collar top was 99 cents on eBay, and the modernized cat-eye glasses are Dolce and Gabbana. The hair scarf is actually a belt from a polyester ’70s dress I got at a thrift store when I was in high school. Yeah. It’s time to clean out my closet.

Thanks to the team at L.L.Bean Signature Collection for sponsoring this post.
Next time I have a clambake, you are so invited.