Resource File: Our Favorite DIYs and Weekend Workshops

July 27th, 2011 § 3 comments §

One of the great things about the internet and the blossoming of the blogosphere is the amount of information and inspiration that is now at our fingertips. We, in our little corner of the web, have over the years hopefully sparked some ideas for your own do-it-yourself projects. None of us are expert sewers or crafters, but we’ve still dabbled in creating or reimagining garments, crafting storage solutions, and making a few extra pretty things along the way. Beyond concrete DIY projects, we’ve also tried to be self-conscious about showing you our thought processes for more amorphous projects like “What do you pack for a research year abroad?” or “What do you wear to an academic conference?” Here we’ve compiled some of our personal favorites and hope you still find them as useful as we do!

Do It Yourself

19 April 2010 - A Pocket Full of Allergy Meds 9 May 2009 - Evening Shower

E. shows you how she made a tank dress — with pockets! and turns a maxi halter dress into a knee-length dress with draped kimono sleeves

Paper bag waist Target dress before

E.’s guide to re-fashioning existing garments

DIY Embellished Ts

DIY: cardigan embellished with Amy Butler fabric DIY Cardigan

E. embellishes a cardigan with applique and A. sews on some rosettes for a change

30 March 2011 - Maternity top 'After' picture 3 September 2009 - Independent Study

S. elasticizes the bottom of a shirt for maternity wear and E. shows us how to “skinny” your jeans

Home-made Bouquet
DIY: The Wedding Collection

DIY Jewelry Hanger - detail Paper Flowers

How to make a simple jewelry hanger and How to make tissue paper flowers

Weekend Workshops

How to re-purpose your jewelry

On the Road Again: Packing for Anything

Arty Top + Skinny Jeans24 April 2009 - Evening

Finding Wardrobe Inspiration

Skirts Dresses Sweaters and Cardis Tops Accessories

Capsule Wardrobe Roundup

Click here for a full listing of our How Tos and here for additional DIYs and look here for more Weekend Workshops!

Category: Independent Study (DIY), Resources, Taking Notes, Weekend Workshops

E. Travels: The Tom Bihn Tri-Star

July 5th, 2011 § 38 comments §

It’s been just about six years since my husband and I discovered Tom Bihn, a company making cleverly designed bags from US Ballistic nylon in Seattle, Washington. Since then, we’ve been devoted fans, especially of our carry-on Aeronaut bags.

But, as much as I love the maximal carry-on capacity of the Aeronaut, it’s a little bit too big for my two or three day conferences and research trips. So, I was thrilled when Tom Bihn offered to let me review their new(ish), slightly smaller carry-on bag, the Tri-Star. For short trips — particularly short trips when you need to hit the ground running off to a museum, archive, or auditorium — this bag is a great blend of briefcase and suitcase, small enough to fit easily in a locker but spacious enough to accomodate more than enough clothes and whatnot for a few days.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Take, for example, my recent research trip to New York City. I needed to go directly from the airport to a museum archive. This meant bringing my luggage with me on a bus, train, and a brief walk to a building with not-generously sized lockers. Besides clothes and toiletries, I also needed to bring my laptop, some reading material, note-taking material, and folders to house my piles (we hope!) of research findings.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

(Did I mention that these bags come in fun color combinations? I have grellow luggage! At last!)

The Tri-Star is basically made of three compartments that can be further sub-divided as necessary. The center compartment is the perfect size for my laptop and other nerdy supplies. Plus, there’s still a little bit of room for a snack in there, too.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

The back compartment has nifty hold-down straps for clothing. I folded and strapped down a pair of knit pants, a cotton button-down, a thin tunic, two skirts, a jersey dress, and a knit blazer. My big soft tote bag fit easily on top of all of that without straining the compartment zipper.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

The front compartment is the one that got my compartmentalized packing self all excited. You could easily fit multiple configurations of packing cubes in there…

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Or, you could choose to divide the compartment with the built-in zipper. Oh look, it’s the perfect place to stash shoes…

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

My remaining clothes (underwear, pajamas, camisoles, a skirt slip, and three knit tops) and toiletries all fit easily into another packing cube. Speaking of, Tom Bihn pretty much makes a little zippered pouch for anything you can imagine: jewelry, toothbrush, a chapter of your dissertation…the usual.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

The front of the Tri-Star has three tiered zippered pockets of varying depths. It’s the perfect place to put things that you need to access easily, like your passport, boarding passes, pens, earbuds, printed directions, phone, etc.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

And then, you could use the additional zippered pocket to tuck a few more sundry items or…you could use the nifty little snapping contraption to create the perfect little pouch for your water bottle or travel mug.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

As with the Aeronaut, the Tri-Star has easy-to-grip handles and can also convert into a backpack. The very comfortable shoulder strap can be purchased separately as well. I find the backpack orientation to be the easiest way to travel with this bag when I’m boarding an aircraft or rushing to catch a bus or train. Once I’m at my destination, it’s easy to switch to a briefcase carry.

Are these the most aesthetically stylish bags on the market? No. But it’s incredibly well-made, sturdy, smart, and worth the initial output of cash. And I like that in a bag. Oh, and, for you international travelers, the Tri-Star meets carry-on requirements for Europe and Australia as well, since it’s smaller than the Aeronaut.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, partly because I really, truly love Tom Bihn bags and have been on a crusade to convert as many family members and friends to them as possible. But also…we’ll be offering a chance for you to WIN a Tri-Star in Tom Bihn’s newest color of custom U.S. 1050d ballistic nylon: Forest. The giveaway starts on Friday, so be sure to check back for an opportunity to snag your very own Tri-Star in Forest/Ultraviolet. Start dreaming about what perfect little trip you could take…

Category: Academichic Product Review, It's in the Bag, Research Casual, Taking Notes
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Weekend Workshop: On Questions of Travel

April 2nd, 2011 § 10 comments §

By land, by air or by sea, whether you are traveling over a school break, gearing up for a summer trip, or just found out you’ll be spending a research year abroad there are always myriad questions one asks when preparing to travel. What should I pack? What should I wear on the plane/train/boat/car ride? How formal will I need to be? What outwear should I bring? How many shoes will I need? and finally, How on earth am I going to get all this stuff into one bag?? Elizabeth Bishop has a few more philosophical questions in her poem “Questions of Travel”:

Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

This is one of my favorite poems, and while I (L.) have no answers for Bishop’s questions, I have compiled a few tips on the more basic travel and packing questions mentioned above.

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Category: It's in the Bag, Sabbatical, Taking Notes, Weekend Workshops
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30 March 2011 – Mini DIY Project

March 30th, 2011 § 17 comments §

30 March 2011 - Maternity top 'After' picture


Top – Liz Lange Maternity for Target, via consignment store
Jean skirt – Liz Lange Maternity for Target, via consignment store
Cardi – very old H&M
Brooch – vintage, via consignment store
Tights – TJMaxx
Yellow shoes – Gianni Bini
Scarf – Vintage Threadz on Etsy


This skirt and top are two more finds from my maternity shopping spree with E. The best part of going maternity clothes shopping with E.? She has such a great eye for the potential in items. I found this teal top and instantly liked its color and drapeyness, but once on, the drapeyness was a little too much and it felt a little long and frumpy…

Maternity top 'Before' picture

But E. suggested two ways in which this could be quickly and easily remedied. One way would be to add ruching to the sides of the fabric (see a simple tutorial here), gathering it with that puckered effect symptomatic of many a maternity shirt. I loved that solution for keeping the top structured while allowing for extra belly fabric, but didn’t think that my remedial sewing skills could produce it. So I went with the second – and easier option – which was to add an elastic band along the bottom seam bringing the fabric in that way.

Shirt hem DIY

This was a very quick and effortless project that only cost me a couple of dollars in elastic and a few minutes in DIY time. I used a seam ripper to cut an opening into that bottom seam and ran the elastic all the way through. Once I had the elastic in, I tried the top on to see how wide I needed my elastic to be to fit comfortably around my hips. I pinned the ends in place with a safety pin while I had the shirt still on, then sewed them together, cut the excess elastic off, and stitched the shirt seam back up. And voila! The new and improved version…

30 March 2011

For comparison purposes, here is the top once more with the ‘Before’ and ‘After pictures…

Maternity top 'Before' picture 30 March 2011
Maternity top 'Before' picture 23 weeks preggers

I much prefer this more nipped in and tailored version, as it hugs the belly while still being loose and comfortable but without looking shapeless and frumpy. It’s such a minor change but still one that makes such a difference. Thanks, E., for a great idea! Being able to see the potential in items makes shopping for a maternity wardrobe (or any wardrobe) much easier, especially when scouring thrift stores and consignment shops. The selection may not always be as great as in a retail store but the pricer are much better and the possibilities after altering something to suit your shape and aesthetic make the find all the more rewarding, don’t you think?  S.

Category: Beltless, Independent Study (DIY), Maternity Style, Proportionally, Skirting the Issue, Taking Notes
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28 March 2011 – ‘Built-ins’

March 28th, 2011 § 14 comments §

28 March 2011


Coat – Merona, via consignment store
Maternity dress – Motherhood, via consignment store
Belt – thrifted
Red-orange necklace – thrifted
Red bracelet – H&M years ago
Red tights – TJMaxx
Loafers – Michael Kors, thrifted
Red earrings – Welt Laden in Salzburg, Austria

Bike – 1969 Raleigh Sports


I’m becoming increasingly drawn to navy as a favorite neutral. I particularly like how it works with reds and browns. This navy shirtdress was one of my finds during a shopping spree with E. over my last visit to academichic central. E. took me to her favorite maternity consignment store and we had a blast perusing their maternity outfits while swapping pregnancy stories. At the time, I had just started to feel my baby move and I remember how delighted I felt to have E. (a second-time mom) confirm that those pops really were the baby.

That day, we came away with a few good maternity finds. Among which was this stretchy navy shirt dress that came with those built-in belt straps that are sometimes more nuisance than help. E. also found a gorgeous dress that day, which also came with built-in straps, and she recorded how she made those work here. I decided to take the plunge and remove them altogether.

Removing the belt straps Removing the belt straps

You can see how the dress looks with the navy built-in straps in comparison to it being worn with a different, contrasting belt. I think I much prefer the latter, which breaks up the vast amount of solid fabric and gives the eye a focal point. So I knew I wouldn’t miss the navy straps, since I was likely to never wear it ‘as is’…

>With built-in belt Navy and Red

Sometimes built-in belts works wonderfully and A. even did a demonstration of how you can use them to tie in a cardigan or outside layer. But I think that for the built-in straps to work well, they have to be of a more substantial width. The thin ‘shoestring’ kind just don’t seem to do it for me. What do you do with the built-in belts, do you keep them or cut them?


23 Weeks Preggers :) Polkadot lining

Category: Color Combinations, Dresses for Day, Layers Upon Layers, Maternity Style, Our Best Flatware, Proportionally, Taking Notes, Teaching Outfits
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Weekend Workshop: Pattern Mixing

March 26th, 2011 § 11 comments §

For whatever reason the phrase “pattern mixing” still prompts me (E.) to break into a little bit of a nervous sweat. I think that somewhere along the way I built up pattern mixing into this highly calculated and unattainable level of style to which I, as a humble machine washable peon, did not have access to. Catalogue images from Anthropologie were overwhelming rather than inspiring and even with Stacy and Clinton’s “What Not to Wear” rules of remaining within a color family or doing bold+subtle patterns, I just…balked.

Pattern Mixing

I think pattern mixing is, finally, one of those things that I’ve grown into as I’ve become more confident in my own style and sense of self. Even though playing with pattern is not my initial style impulse, I’ve increasingly found pattern to be a good way of kicking me out of a wardrobe rut or injecting my somewhat staid daily outfits with a little bit more fun.

All four of us chics have mixed patterns in our daily outfits, but what I found interesting as I looked through our archive of “Mixing Patterns” is that we each have our own preferred approach to doing so. Each approach has a different end effect, but perhaps you’ll find inspiration for whatever degree of pattern craziness you prefer.


23 November 2010

When A. mixes patterns (and she really does so quite a bit), she tends to play with classic prints in a subtle color palette. Argyle and a tiny floral in neutral tones. Pinstripes and florals that both share a black background.

Pattern MixingBlazers, Florals, Belts

On the other hand, A. has also done some monochromatic color mixing in punchier colors, too!

pink pattern on pink pattern! Pattern on Pattern on Pattern



Much of L.’s pattern mixing comes from using a bolder patterned accessory in addition to a more subtly patterned garment. The result is a lovely initial “ooh” when you see her bold pattern, followed by an extended “ahhh” when you realize that there are other visually interesting elements at play as well. She paired pinstriped trousers with a patterned flat, for example, or a patterned sweater with a multicolor scarf, or graphic black and white dress with a patchwork bag.

2011 Academichic - Grellow

2010 Academichic - White Shoes Pattern and Lola Jeans


Nomi Tote

I think that A., L., and I are all somewhat still in awe of how S. embraces a range of bold patterns and then mixes them with other prints! While she frequently and effortlessly mixes more subtle stripes and polkadots with an array of other prints, she has also mixed stripes with stripes, florals with stripes, landscape prints with stripes, florals with abstractions, and geometric upon geometric.

19 March 2009 Pattern mixing
17 December 2009 Silk scarf
Pattern mix Subtle pattern mix
Pattern Mix 20 January 2010

Pattern Mix

(S.’s teaching moment on pattern mixing with a cardigan is definitely worth a read if you’d like to see various iterations of a pattern mixed outfit.)


24 March 2011 - Spot the Flower

I don’t think that I have a definitive style of pattern mixing per se, but I have noticed that my general approach is to imagine that the patterned pieces are solid colors. I create color pairings first, before thinking too hard about pattern. This helps me get over my initial uneasiness and has frequently paid off. Using this mentality, I’ve turned classic pairings like navy and red or black, white, and red into geometric on geometric or stripes and lace pattern mixes. Or, of course a white tank top would go with a mustard, brown, and white patterned skirt…even if said white tank top also has navy stripes.

25 February 2010 Let's Give Them Something to Talk About

Matriarch Skirt

This has also been the means of adding interest to otherwise monochrome black and white outfits. Stripes and tweed have a graphic punch together, while stripes and tone-on-tone damask is more subtle.

3 November 2010 - A Little Craycray 29 September 2010 - Black and White Week, Day 3


We’re not the craziest pattern mixers out there, but we have each found ways to use pattern play in ways that simultaneously suits and pushes our individual tastes. While rules about how to mix patterns can be useful, I’ve found it even more helpful to think broadly about what drives my personal style and then work patterns of various stripes (and florals and graphics) into that. Now, pattern mixing need not be an daunting style goal that I strive for just for the sake of achieving. Instead, I’m understanding it as a tool that I can use to add another level of interest to my own existing style.

Category: Mixing Patterns, Taking Notes

DIY: Ribbon Belt with Button Closure

March 3rd, 2011 § 18 comments §

Ribbon Belt in action


  • Shirt: Target
  • Sweater: thrifted
  • Skirt: Banana Republic
  • Ribbon Belt: by me!
  • Stockings: Calvin Klein via Filene’s Basement
  • Shoes: Tahari via DSW

Belts were my gateway drug into the world of style. I so envied the sleek/stylish/fun/creative belts that the other Chics wore, that I finally drank the Kool-Aid and got some for myself… and I’ve never looked back. I have pink belts, custom made belts, wide belts, skinny belts, obi belts, stretchy belts, scarf belts, metallic belts, and belts that are literally made out of metal. I have worn belts to define my waist, turn a dress into a skirt, and add color to an outfit, and I keep looking for new inspirations for using my growing collection. Needless to say, I love belts and today’s is no exception. In fact my entire outfit is based off of the colors in the belt. Pink, pale blue, gold and cream are picked up in my shirt, sweater, and shoes – unfortunately I did have to wear sheer stockings today because my brain couldn’t figure out a pair of tights that would work – Do you have some suggestions!?

Ribbon Belt closeup

I dug this fantastic vintage ribbon out of a box of sewing equipage that was my grandmother’s and have been meaning to do something with it for a while now. It is so fabulous with the bright pinks and greens, subtle blue, tiny gold detailing and stuffed (yes, with real batting!) damask flowers and butterflies that I knew I wanted it to mostly stand on its own, and making it into a belt was as easy as 1-2-3!

Click “more” for the DIY of How to Make A Ribbon Belt with Button Closure
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Category: Color Combinations, Independent Study (DIY), Reaching New Heights, Skirting the Issue, Taking Notes, Teaching Outfits
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Tight Swap, Take Two

February 15th, 2011 § 51 comments §

Tight Swap - Gray

In last year’s Fashion 101 on tights, I offered an example of how merely switching out tights could change the entire appearance of an outfit. This year, I thought I’d try out the same idea again, but with a different dress and shoe combination.

(As an aside, I really love the substantial ponte knit and demure shape of this little gray sheath, but it’s significantly shorter than what I usually wear. I don’t think I’ll be teaching in this dress until I let the hem down, but even for running about town over the weekend I felt…abbreviated.)

In any case, onward. The photo above shows the gray dress paired with gray tights. The monochrome scheme does mitigate my hem length issues, and I love how the browns of the belt and boots warm everything up. A touch more interesting than wearing black tights, but still cool and simple.

Next up, patterned tights. Meh. This is probably my least favorite look, not because I don’t like my patterned tights, but because I think they were the wrong value for this medium gray sheath. I think a darker patterned tight would have worked a little better, no?

Tight Swap - Patterned

Given my love of grellow, I definitely wanted to try pairing this soft gray dress with punchier saffron tights. I love the idea of these tights in theory, but sometimes when I wear them I get a little self conscious about maybe looking like I have Muppet legs. Here, though, I think they work well with the warm cognac boots to create a little bit of punch without breaking up my leg line too harshly.

Tights Swap - Saffron

I think this gray and red combination is one of my favorite iterations. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m channeling some Tania from What Would a Nerd Wear and her “gred”. There’s something classic but fresh and the tights look purposeful, not like a tacked on afterthought.

Tight Swap - Red

Finally, blue tights. I was prepared to not like this…but I really do. I don’t usually think of cobalt as being a “spring” color, but there’s a lot of it around this year and I think it’s a little unexpected with the gray and navy.

Tight Swap - Royal Blue

Do you have a favorite?

Category: Dresses for Day, Our Best Flatware, Research Casual, Taking Notes, Teaching Moment
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Weekend Workshop: Making Creative Use of Your Jewelry

February 13th, 2011 § 149 comments §

To conclude Jewelry Week here at academichic, we’ve pulled together a collection of the many ways we’ve enjoyed repurposing our jewelry to get extra mileage out of each item. We hope that the following images out of our archives inspire you to make more creative use of the items in your collection.

For instance…

1. Earrings can double as pendants (especially when you’ve lost one earring and are at a loss of what to do with just one…

Detail Earrings necklace

2. And earrings can double as brooches…

Brooch cluster Little Leaves

Pearl Cluster 25 August 2010

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Category: Taking Notes, Weekend Workshops
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Weekend Workshop: DIY Jewelry Hanger

February 12th, 2011 § 26 comments §

In today’s Weekend Workshop we’ll be making a jewelry hanger.

I (L.) used to keep all my jewelry in a drawer or jewelry box, but I found that I would cycle between a few pieces that would live on my dresser and I’d never get to the other things that were stashed away. I decided to combat “out of sight, out of mind” by making this jewelry organizer that would allow my jewelry to hang in plain sight. I took the idea of those ribbon bulletin boards that were popular a few years ago (I definitely don’t pretend to have thought this up myself!) and put some leftover fabric and ribbon to use. True to my assumption I have been wearing a much wider range of necklaces ever since!

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Category: Independent Study (DIY), Taking Notes, Weekend Workshops
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