To Chop or Not to Chop

July 28th, 2011 § 8 comments §

Plaid Skirt made from Dress



  • Skirt – chopped by me from thirfted dress
  • Blouse – Gap
  • Shoes – Kenneth Cole Reaction


  • Skirt – swapped dress chopped by me
  • Tank – J Crew
  • Belt – Old Navy
  • Necklace – gift from A2
  • Shoes – Banana Republic


I hope you don’t mind, but I decided to squeeze in one more post before my Top Ten/Goodbye post.  I wanted to fit this in because it answered some of the questions you all asked and because I’m kind of proud of my very minimal (but improving) DIY clothing skills (DIY house skills are another story).

As many of you noticed, I have chopped many a dresses into skirts. I’ve also worn a few dresses as skirts by layering a top over them.  So, how do I decided to chop something vs. leave it as a dress but layer over it?  Well I won’t chop it if I can see myself wearing it as a dress, even if that means always with a cardigan over it.  If the proportions of the garment as a dress work for me, I leave it as a dress.  Most of the dresses I have chopped into skirts had proportions that just didn’t work right for me. In the case of my full blue skirt and my white and black floral skirt, as dresses they had empire waists and were a little too short on me.  Chopping off the tops allowed me to lower the waist line and the hemline with minimal effort. In the case of my powder-blue midi skirt, it was an over-all unflattering fit with a smocked top and a skinny halter top, so I just chopped the very top off and use the smocking as anew fold-over waist band.  For the skirt above, I thrifted the dress very cheaply and while I thought it would work as a dress, I didn’t love the silhouette one I wore it out. So, I chopped the top off and left the elastic waist which now sits a bit lower (at my natural waist). 

Black dress chopped to skirt

With each of these, I simply took out a pair of scissors and chopped just above the original waist line.  The seem or elastic has then served as my we waist line, which sits where I want it to.  I left the tops unsewn – in part because I knew I would always wear a belt with the and in part because I had no idea how to even start finishing off the edges.I think this solution is a perfect one, and I’ll likely keep chopping old dresses or newly thrifted ones to make them work better in my wardrobe.

Plaid Skirt made from Dress

However, simply chopping and belting won’t work for every garment, so it was time to give the sewing machine a whirl!

Black dress chopped to skirt

I received  sewing machine for Christmas this past year (very much inspired by E. and all the other crafty blogers out there).  E. generously gave me a tutorial and even started me on my own tank-dress with pockets.  But then life got busy and we haven’t finished our lessons or my tank-dress. So, I decided I needed to just experimiment.  With the help of A2 I’ve started playing around and even managed to make baby e. (E.’s son) and little gift for his birthday. It was time to try the oh so intimidating clothing sew!  I grabbed a black sun dress from a clothing swap even though it was about 3 sizes too big for me not a style I could see myself wearing – it had potential.  This free item that I definitely wasn’t wearing as is, seemed like the perfect candidate for an experiment. I decided to turn it into a full black skirt.  I started by chopping off the top, but that left me with a skirt that was very a-line, didn’t fit my waist, and was several inches too long.  It had to be sewn!  So, I pulled out my limited sewing supplies (notice I used a permenent marker instead of a fabric pen/chalk) and measured an existing full skirt to figure out my length.  Since the bottom had a nice hem on it and the top needed to be changed in some way anyway, I took the length off by chopping more from the top.  This of course left me with an even bigger waist.
tank + chopped dresssupplies

But, this also meant I could make the skirt fuller.  So, I turned to E.’s tank-dress tutorial again and loosely followed her directions for gathering the skir and attaching a tank to it. Since I didn’t want this to be a a tank dress, I used an old tank that I don’t wear and choped it’s bottom off.  I used the bottom hem of the tank as the top of my new stretchy waistband

new waist band

Not the best sewing job, but good practice.  And, let’s be honest, I’m still always going to wear a belt with it!

I hope this has encouraged you to take a few risks and pull out you scissors one in awhile when that dress just isn’t working anymore!


Black dress chopped to skirt

Category: Independent Study (DIY), Proportionally, Reaching New Heights, Skirting the Issue, Teaching Outfits, Weekend Wear
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20 July 2011 – Changes

July 20th, 2011 § 6 comments §

Skirt as Skirt Option 1 Skirt as Skirt Option 1


  • Tank: Banana Republic
  • Skirt: Gap Outlet
  • Scarf: Filene’s Basement
  • Shoes: Tahari via
  • Necklace: Accessorize

Sources (below):

  • Tank: Splendid via Filene’s Basement
  • Dress: Hourglass via Marshall’s
  • Shoes: Gap Outlet
  • Necklace: made by me

By now most of you probably have read that the chics of Academichic are closing up shop at the end of this month. While I’m certainly sad to see this project end, I’d like to echo S.’s words today and THANK YOU all for your comments (both kind and critical) as these have pushed me to think far beyond my wardrobe into more theoretical questions of femininity, feminism, gender, ethnicity, economics, politics, and culture. Like S. said, we’ll each have longer wrap-up posts to get into our favorite discussions and wardrobe decisions, so I’ll hold off on waxing poetic for this post!

I thought it was appropriate that one of my last posts is very reminiscent of my first post – nothing beats a swirly skirt and light tank in the summer heat! However, one thing that makes a swirly jersey skirt even better is one that can be both a skirt AND a dress. I nabbed this at the Gap Outlet clearance section in June and have been experimenting with it ever since. Around the same time I picked up the blue dress in the images below and have been remixing that into a skirt. I was totally inspired by A.’s recent post about turning a strapless summer dress into a shirtdress, and you guys know how much I love “convertible season.” So here are two ideas that I’ve come up with so far for this skirt as a dress: trying a scarf/sash around the top OR using a scarf to give a little more coverage over the shoulders.

Skirt as Dress Option 2 Skirt as Dress Option 2 Skirt as Dress Option 3 Skirt as Dress Option 3

For the blue strapless dress I wore it a few times alone, but one day didn’t feel like being so bare up top and opted for a tank underneath. By pulling the dress (now a skirt) up right below my chest I made a kind of empire waisted dress that fell just below my knee. While I’m not sure that the length is very flattering on me, I know that mid-length skirts are “in” and it is very comfy this way.

Dress as Dress Dress as Dress Dress as Skirt Option 1 Dress as Skirt Option 1

Finally, I wanted to show off one of my favorite pieces of jewelry, which dresses up any outfit. My sister brought these small “evil eyes” back to me from Turkey and I love how they look all together (pun intended). I also strung one on the back so I have an “eye in the back of my head” so to speak.

Evil Eyes

What are your best convertible pieces? How do you style a dress as skirt or vice versa?

Category: Beltless, Dresses for Day, Dresses for Evening, Layers Upon Layers, Our Best Flatware, Reaching New Heights, Skirting the Issue
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Trying to Stay Cool in the Midwest

July 18th, 2011 § 10 comments §

Floral Skirt


  • Skirt – Old Navy Sundress chopped by me
  • Tank – Ann Taylor Loft
  • Belt – Small Store in SF
  • Shoes – Kenneth Cole Reaction
  • Necklace – a lonely earring on a chain


What they are saying on the news is true  – IT’S HOT IN THE MIDWEST.  So, you can expect to see lots of this straps, light skirts, and curly hair from me.  I’ve mostly been wearing shorts and tanks these days (or my swimsuit) while playing with toddlers.  So for a coffee/work date with a friend, I pulled out the heels.

This skirt used to be a dress, that just didn’t get enough use in it’s original state, so I chopped it.  I’ve been getting more adventurous with my scissors lately (and working on my limited sewing skills) and chopped three other garments just over the weekend.  I’ll try to post some results for my scissor session in the next couple weeks.   I just figure if the are old and/or cheap and I’m not wearing them anyway, why not attempt to give them new life.  The worst that could happen?  I end up with scrap fabric for when I eventually do master my sewing machine.

What about you?  Do you fearlessly chop?  Are you make impulsive (yet fairly permanent) alterations?


Floral Skirt

Category: Reaching New Heights, Skirting the Issue
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15 July 2011 – Complex Title Goes Here

July 15th, 2011 § 29 comments §

15 July 2011


  • Top: H&M
  • Necklace: Fig & Ginger, Mothers Day gift from little e. and his dad
  • Skirt: chopped from a thrifted maternity dress
  • Belt: thrifted
  • Sandals: Jeffrey Campbell

End Notes:

A couple of weeks ago a reader e-mailed us with this observation and question:

I realized that the cute pictures of pregnant women and bloggers and celebrities that we see are usually of the girls that look like twizzlers who swallowed a grape. The ones who don’t look pregnant from the back. And I started to wonder if, along with the movement toward pregnancy being beautiful, there is not now a huge amount of pressure to remain beautiful and cute while pregnant. Is it becoming unacceptable to gain a lot of weight and wear sweats and not bother with your hair?

I found this to be a really difficult question to answer. First off, what role DOES social pressure and the media plays in my self-image on a regular basis? I’ve always been the skinny flat-chested girl, but how much was my embrace of that body type motivated by an acceptance of social norms or was it more self-generated? I don’t know that I can really say for sure. And how about with a pregnant body? Certainly, descriptions of women’s obsession with not gaining weight during pregnancy appeared in Pregnancy Today and the New York Times. I don’t think that photos of skinny pregnant celebrities played a significant role in my past pregnancy or this one…but I’m certainly willing to admit that media influence is often a lot more subtle and seductive than we realize.

But besides social pressure, I also had to think about the particularities of my own body proportions, personal history, career path, and lifestyle. I don’t especially want to delve into my medical history here, but I will say that those specificities have powerfully shaped the way in which I understand my body and my pregnancy.

15 July 2011

So here’s the thing. For me, the worst part of being pregnant is how my body has suddenly become grounds for public conversation and debate. Strangers and mere acquaintances frequently pass judgment at the grocery store, in the park, or at the library. “You’re too small to be seven and a half months pregnant. Are you eating enough?” “Oh, you’re only 5 months pregnant? That’s going to be a big baby!” “Wow, you’re carrying low. Is your cervix okay?” If I’m wearing a dress and cute shoes or deemed “too small,” I’m accused of being too vain and not taking adequate care of myself or my child. If I’m deemed “too big,” I’m still accused of not taking adequate care of myself or my child, hence the “excess” weight. A bit of an overwrought rant? Sure. But it is rather amazing to see how much public attitudes towards pregnancy have changed in the past several decades, from a “condition” that was not discussed in polite conversation to a free-for-all debate over health and responsibility.

Perhaps I am still just too close to the situation to answer this reader question adequately. Am I buying into a Hollywood myth of what pregnancy should look like by wearing a body-conscious striped dress? Or am I just having fun with an unfamiliar body? All that to say…I don’t particularly want to look like a twizzler that swallowed a grape. On the other hand, I’m not crazy about the hand and cheek bloat that comes with being pregnant in the middle of a hot summer. And finally, I’m sorry if I give a stand-offish vibe in the grocery store. I’m probably worried that you’re judging the fat content of the food in my cart. Because I can be anxious like that.

Just one last thing. S. and I have different bodies and have thus had different pregnancies. And, except for our overlapping love of the hippie mama look, we’ve dressed differently from each other to accomodate our own bodies, work habits, and family routines. So S., just so you know, I think you’ve looked beautiful this whole pregnancy. Good work and good luck.

Fig & Ginger Bird Necklace

15 July 2011

Category: Maternity Style, Our Best Flatware, Pregnancy in Academia, Skirting the Issue
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14 July 2011 – Almost there

July 14th, 2011 § 39 comments §

Summer time


Tee – maternity shirt from Target
Skirt – thrifted
Sandals – AE years ago
Necklaces – two thrifted ones worn intertwined


Well, dear readers, it’s getting close. I’m almost 39 weeks now and expecting the arrival of my little one any day now. These days I’ve outgrown even most of my maternity clothes and am living in a few select tops and my super comfortable hippie skirts. Although I’m wary of spending money on anything new, I did stop by the local thrift store and was excited to come across this green and fuchsia paisley skirt. It’s not a maternity item (most of my clothing weren’t actually maternity, but just things bought a size or two up) but it’s the right size and it has a nice wide elastic waist panel, which makes it perfect for wearing under my belly.

I know that everyone is different when it comes to the waistband question during pregnancy. Some women really like the snug feel of the ‘full panel‘, which comes up and over your belly. I discovered that I hate the feel of anything clinging to my belly and have worn all my maternity items rolled under to fit underneath the ‘bump’. This has made it easy enough to convert non-maternity items into matenity items: I just shopped for things with an elastic waist or drawstring waist that fit snuggly enough over my hips and could sit rolled under my belly.

Which camp do you/did you fall into? The full panel or the low rise?

Cycling with Baby

These days, I’m trying to get all those last minute things ready before baby comes. Last edits on my dissertation chapter, final touches on a birth plan, last must-do’s around the house… so you may be seeing less of me as I use my coming days (hopefully, not weeks) to take care of odds and ends and prepare for the little one’s arrival.

And yes, I’m still riding my bike in moderation. It’s been really nice to continue with a routine of prenatal yoga, cycling, and swimming until the end. If you want to read more about cycling (and excercising) while pregnant, you can find my entries on that topic here.

And in case we don’t ‘see’ each other before the birth, wish me luck!

Category: Beltless, Maternity Style, Our Best Flatware, Proportionally, Skirting the Issue, Vélocouture
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13 July 2011 – A Not-So-Basic Basic

July 13th, 2011 § 9 comments §

12 July 2011 - A Not Basic Basic


  • Top: Forever 21
  • Necklace: Tilly Bloom
  • Belt: thrifted
  • Skirt: chopped from a dress
  • Sandals: Jeffrey Campbell via Gilt

End Notes:

My definition of a wardrobe “basic” rarely jives with the lists offered in women’s lifestyle magazines. When asked to designate the “workhorses” of my wardrobe last year, I picked my mustard blouson top and my navy jersey dress. I agree that black slacks and a white button down have their place in the fashion hall of fame for good reason, but I have always loved it when I can make a “basic” out of a garment that is anything but.

So it comes as little surprise, I suppose, that some of the wardrobe workhorses of this current pregnancy have been colored skirts, like my dusty purple one — cut from a thrifted maternity dress — that has featured in quite a few outfits this summer.

13 May 2011 - Book By Its Cover 23 May 2011 - Grape Blammo I Might Regret This Shortly

And now my new love is this BRIGHT red skirt. I’m envisioning it with purple, with gray, with olive, and even with aqua.

12 July 2011 - A Not Basic Basic

For someone who loves colorful clothes as much as I do, it hardly seems fair that in the midst of a style season punctuated with bright color blocking retailers of maternity clothes have tended towards a tasteful range of neutrals. I can’t say that I would necessarily be wearing coral chinos were they handed to me in maternity sizing…but I’ll be counting on this skirt to see me through the last month and a half with a good dose of hyper color cheer.

Are you wearing bright colors on the bottom this summer?

12 July 2011 - A Not Basic Basic

Category: Color Combinations, Maternity Style, Our Best Flatware, Research Casual, Skirting the Issue
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12 July 2011 – Three Cheers!

July 12th, 2011 § 8 comments §

11 July 2011 - 3 Bests


  • Tank: Banana Republic
  • Skirt: BR Outlet
  • Belt: J. Crew
  • Shoes: Gap Outlet

I’m a little late in finishing up my Dress Your Best picks, and today I’m giving three cheers to my waist, my nose, and my shoulders. It probably comes as no surprise that I’d pick my waist as a “best” because of my obsession with belts and belting. However, I didn’t even know I had a waist until last year. I have always had a butt thanks to sports, but my waist didn’t whittle down until I was well into my 20s during a time when several factors caused my body shape and weight to completely change. I found that defining my waist took advantage of my new shape, and now of course I find it very hard NOT to belt things! As for my nose, it’s a perfect combination of my mom’s and my dad’s. Depending on which parent I’m with, people will often remark, “oh, this MUST be your daughter!” It’s pretty hard to “dress” for your nose, but since it is right in the middle of my face, I’d say I dress for it everyday.

11 July 2011 - 3 Bests

Finally my arms. They’ve always been strong and toned thanks to hours lifting weight for lacrosse and now thanks to hour spent running and cross-training. In fact, I’m the “friend” that A. was talking about last year in her post about her arms. I love showing them off when I can in the summer with tanks or halter tops.

11 July 2011 - Showing Off My Arms

I realized during the Dress Your Best challenge that I was already dressing to show off my best parts, and for some reason it makes me sound conceited to say that there are many more than five parts of myself that I love. I feel like I’m bragging by identifying myself as A.’s “super-armed” friend, but isn’t that what DYB is all about? I know that many blogs talk about the vicious circle of body-bashing that women can get in to, but why is it so hard to admit that I love my body? I always valued whatever it looked like because I knew it was allowing me to do things like play sports or climb mountains – Do I ever wish I had a bigger chest? Yes. Am I thankful that my chest is small and is easily contained in a sports bra? Yes. Do I sometimes wish my thighs were smaller? Certainly. Do I love seeing my quad muscles flex when I’m running or climbing or just walking up stairs? You betcha! I guess what I’ve learned from this exercise is that whether you struggle to find the parts you love or love all the parts you have, no one loves everything all the time BUT it’s not bragging to admit what you do love… that’s perfectly O.K too.

Dressing Up My Collarbone

Category: Dress Your Best, Our Best Flatware, Research Casual, Skirting the Issue
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6 July 2011 – Stop and smell the flowers

July 6th, 2011 § 5 comments §

Stop and smell the flowers


White tank – BE Maternity
Aqua tank – thrifted
Skirt – Motherhood maternity, inherited from E. from her 1st pregnancy
Sandals – Target
Necklace – gift from Costa Rica
Bangle – thrifted
Sunnies – hand me downs from mom


At this point in my pregnancy, it’s all about the little things: stopping and smelling the flowers, taking everything in at a slightly slower pace, and appreciating the small moments that make each day special before my family’s life takes on a drastic change.

When it comes to getting dressed, the same approach applies: it’s all about the small things. While I’ve outgrown many of my clothes at this point (I’m 37 weeks along, now considered ‘full term’), I can still fit into the ‘small’ things that make up my jewelry box and accessories drawer. So on days when I do shed the yoga sweats and make a bit of an effort, I spruce up the simple outfits I can still create with pops of color from my jewelry and accessories stash.


This approach not only works well when you’re pregnant but also when traveling. It’s the same principle I apply to packing for a trip; grab a few simple garments and let the accessories do the talking. They take up very little room in a suitcase but can wholly alter the feel and register of an outfit.

And speaking of travel, make sure to check back on Friday for our awesome Tom Bihn Tri-Sta bag giveaway! ~ S.

Summer Cycle Chic

Category: Beltless, Maternity Style, Our Best Flatware, Research Casual, Skirting the Issue, Vélocouture
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One More DYB Post, Three More Bests

July 2nd, 2011 § 8 comments §

One More DYB Post, Three More Bests


  • Tank – Banana Republic
  • Skirt – Gap
  • Necklace – Limited
  • Shoes – Banana Republic
  • Bangles – Gifts from S.
  • Earrings – Island Souvenir


I’m making this my last official DYB post, though I do plan to continue to think about my body in these terms and to periodically reflect on what I love about my own body.  So, since I only managed three posts before this, I needed to highlight two more of my five body parts and ended up picking three: my height, my muscular chest and shoulders, my eyes.

First, this outfit is all about the height.  I’m tall.  I’m 5’9 when standing in my bare (very flat) feet.  I’ve been this tall since 7th grade.  Over the past 15 + years  I’ve mostly loved my height.  I get it from my dad, it means I have long legs, I can reach most things others can’t.  I have many positive  height-related memories.  I was the second tallest student when I graduated 8th grade (second to another girl) which meant I got to bring up the back of the processional line.  As a lanky 13 year old, I thought that was pretty cool.

As an adult, I continue to be proud of my height and never shy away from fairly high heels (my love of flats is about comfort, not my own height).  When I saw this super high (4″) wedges on sale I had to have them.  I love them! But, the first time I wore them out about a month ago, I suddenly felt super self-conscious.  I was taller then everyone I was with (men and women) by quite a bit and several people noted it.  And, I got teased!  And, it stung!  I’m not sure why I bothered me, but it did.  I found myself slouching or leaning against walls and bars to appear shorter.  It kind of ruined my night.  Thinking about it a few days later, I felt silly for letting it bother me and vowed to wear my heels with pride!

I’m also celebrating my muscular chest and shoulders.  I love the way this tank top highlights both my shoulders and my the upper part of my chest.  I’ve talked about liking my very pronounced collar bone before, but the other day a friend pointed out that I have well defined, tight pectoral muscles. Hmm, who knew?  Well, now I can’t stop noticing them and I kind of love.  Random, I know.

Finally, I’m celebrating my eyes.  Since cutting my hair, I’ve been getting more and more compliments on my eyes.  I love the color of my eyes, which changes from slate, to sky blue, to turquoise depending on what I’m wearing, and I love my long thick lashes.

So, there you have it my list of 5 + a bonus: body shape, hair, hands, height, shoulders/pecs, and eyes.

I hope that all of you who have participated in DYB 2011 have found the experience as rewarding as I have.  Remember, it’s not too late to participate.  Right now, sit back and close your eyes and list 5 things about your body that you love.  Your list can be body parts, facial features, aspects of your build, skin or hair coloring.  Your list could recall conventional beauty, personal stories, or be totally random.  Just, please take the time to make the list for you!



One More DYB Post, Three More Bests

Category: Dress Your Best, Proportionally, Reaching New Heights, Skirting the Issue, Weekend Wear
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1 July 2011 – Family Matters

July 1st, 2011 § 16 comments §

1 July 2011 - Family Matters


  • Tank: Target
  • Necklace: gift from husband
  • Bracelets: bangles from Banana Republic Factory, cork bracelet from Honolulu swap meet
  • Skirt: thrifted
  • Belt: thrifted
  • Wedges: Reaction by Kenneth Cole, via DSW

End Notes:

Can you Dress Your Best and give a round of applause to your familial heritage? Because that’s how I’m ending my DYB this year.

I’ve always taken great pride in the fact that I am hapa, half Japanese and half Caucasian. Because I grew up in a predominantly Asian culture, I perhaps feel more bonded to my Japanese heritage, but I’ve also come to cherish my Scottish and English roots and my old, old New England settler connections. To have two such different and unique histories wrapped up in my own family continues to be a fascinating thing for me.

But even though I may strongly conceive of myself as hapa, as mixed race, not everyone perceives me that way. Most people in Hawaii, many of whom are mixed race themselves, recognize me as being hapa, though they might jokingly give me a hard time for my paler skin or tall stature that makes me stick out amidst the predominantly tan, short population. Since moving to the mainland, however, I’ve found that such recognition is, ironically, more mixed. Some people recognize me as being “not white” and ask, “What are you?” Some people take guesses. I’ve been told that I look like Michelle Wie and Lucy Liu. Once, someone asked if I was part Mexican. Many people just assume that I’m full white.

1 July 2011 - Family Matters

All of this — the categorization that happens based on physical appearance, the notion that visible recognizability is a necessary part of assuming a particular identity, the very conception of “race” in general — is incredibly fraught and something that I wrestle through in my own academic work. But I know that, for me, my body plays an important role in reminding me of my heritage and seeing my future in the fat cheeks and flat nose of my son who, for all other intents and purposes, looks more like his Caucasian father.

So today I’m celebrating being hapa. I’m celebrating the height I got from 6’4″ father along with the freckles and big ears that are all from his side of the family. And I’m celebrating my big cheeks, dark hair, and yellowy undertones in my skin that come from my mother’s side. So hooray for shoes that are purple and tan even though the skirt is salmon and the shirt is navy. Hooray for a hot pink belt rather than a brown one. Hooray for silver and cork bracelets, worn together. The mixing is what makes it interesting.

Bracelets and Belt

1 July 2011 - Family Matters

Category: Color Combinations, Dress Your Best, Maternity Style, Reaching New Heights, Research Casual, Skirting the Issue
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