Friday, October 28, 2011

alice in launderland

I’ve been obsessing over Alice: Madness Returns, sequel to cult classic American McGee’s Alice from 10 years ago, because the game exhibits an astonishing level of artistry. As the (continuing) story of a grown Alice struggling with the aftermath of a fire that killed her family, the game consists of visiting a Wonderland corrupted by insanity and death, and helping Alice find her way back to truth and relative peace of mind. While the original game was memorable for its macabre and dramatic presentation of our beloved Alice and the denizens of Wonderland, Alice: Madness Returns raises both the storytelling stakes and the level of artistic quality in the environments and character designs to achieve something truly unique and rewarding. I won’t go over the game itself – check my personal blog for an upcoming review if you’re interested – but I did want to highlight how a key element of the game’s success comes in the various dresses Alice, including a variation on her familiar blue dress, wears throughout the game. Besides the imaginative detailing, the dresses are sartorial representations of the various places Alice fights her way through – the Vale of Tears, the Mad Hatter’s Industrial/Steampunk domain, the underwater Deluded Depths, the decayed castle ruins of Queensland, and a surreal, sinister Dollhouse city. Such is American McGee and his team’s attention to detail that the clothes are as instrumental as any other game element in creating the story’s mood and expressing Alice’s relationship to Wonderland, which is as a whole representative of her damaged psyche.

This video draws heavily from the Art of Alice book to demonstrate the conceptualization of Alice’s various looks. The pause button will be your friend.

This video shows the dresses as seen in the game’s configuration menu, along with a set of extra dresses available as part of an add-on pack that I haven’t been able to get my hands on. As Alice is rotated to give you views from all angles, you’ll see how the dresses move – the physics are remarkably fluid. For those of you interested in the gaming aspects, the end of the video shows off the arsenal of unique weapon-toys Alice wields throughout her dangerous journey in Wonderland.

So there you go. Eye candy for fashionistas…in a computer game. No wonder cosplayers have so much fun dressing up...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cavalcade of Costumes

Holy moly, I love Halloween.

I live my life in a perpetual state of dress-up and adore any excuse to get gussied up in an unusual fashion. In the spirit of the impending holiday, I bring you my Halloween greatest hits!

The most bearded lady and strongest man you've ever seen!

Life's a circus and I'm the one in the unitard. The strong man is one of my favorite costumes because:
a. I made that leopard print onsie out of a children's tiger costume.
b. It was insanely comfortable.
c. It involved wearing a mustache.

Comfort and amount of facial hair are key factors in any costume.

If you look closely, you can see my diamond wedding ring.

This is Eva Braun, Hitler's ill-fated wife. As Eddie Izzard says, their honeymoon ended with Adolf in a ditch, covered in petrol, on fire... Very romantic. Honestly, I had just bought this dirndl and was all in a tizzy to wear it in public and didn't want to be a beer wench. So, there you go.

How's this, Warhol?

And here we have Twiggy, a last-minute costume composed of items I had laying around the house.

10/30 makeup
Super snaps to my makeup artist, my momma!

Frida Kahlo
Frida be you and me

Another favorite, Frida Kahlo! I love her art and her ideas and her look. Plus, the multiple layers were great barriers to the cold and it's awesome to rock a unibrow.

Frida Kahlo

At one point, a flamboyant man in a fashion police uniform came up to me and said, "Frida, right? You look fabulous! No ticket for you!" Best experience ever!

This year,  have no fewer than three Halloween costumes on tap so keep an eye on my personal blog, Pump Up the Frump, for impending photographic documentation!

What are your favorite costumes? Do you have a go-to outfit or do you like to innovate? Share your thoughts!

Friday, October 21, 2011

harem scarem or, what's up doc?

by frédérik sisa

Ever hear of “carrot” jeans or “arc fit” jeans? I hadn’t, and when I finally came across them at Topman and ASOS, I was ready to pull out my red thermonuclear WTF!? stamp and brand this post with it. But then I calmed down and remembered that as ridiculous as these look to me, some people, somewhere, like and wear them. Who am I to go off on a fashion police rant? More power to them for wearing what they want.

But enough about them. Let’s get back to me and my opinion, which is that I don’t really “get” these jeans at all. Obviously, they’re a version of harem pants. They’re also comparable to the style of wearing pants so low that underwear requires a spelling change tonunderw-air. In fact, that’s what these carrot jeans, so-called because they’re wide at the hips and tapered at the legs, initially reminded me of before the harem pants kicked into view: dropped crotches with long enough waists for undies to stay under.

From a particular subjective aesthetic standpoint, I suppose pants like these need no justification other than the fact that (some) people like it. Those who don’t, of course, don’t have to buy and wear them. From a design standpoint, however, I’m not clear as to how carrot pants actually work except as ornament, and even then the ornamentation seems odd. A belt buckle, I get. It’s a useful accessories that can be decorated to attract attention to one’s pelvis (or not) as one sees fit. But the dropped crotch of these harem pants wannabes presents a distorted image of the wearer’s pelvis. Some even look like “old man” pants, or the kind of style Steve Urkel would appreciate.

Topman Peg Leg Jeans...hmmm. It's missing a pirate.

At least in Asia they have the good sense to offer actual harem pants instead of garments with a vegetable marketing package. These designs strike me as more successful than ASOS and Topman’s offerings.

Having said that, I think the issue is that harem carrots look unbalanced when the crotch is only dropped a little bit, resulting in an abnormally long pelvis. If dropped down closer to the knee, it starts taking on the character of a pantaloons and, while definitely not for all tastes, at least creates a profile that contrasts the clothing form with body form instead of merely exaggerating body form.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think? Do these carrot jeans appeal to you? Is there room to appreciate the design that’s gone into these bunny pants? Or are these just a niche item?

Note: Images borrowed from ASOS, Topman, and for illustrative purposes. They'll be taken down at the request of the copyright owner. Etc.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ranch Dressing

So, you know how in my last post I said, "I do not own, nor have I ever owned, a horse"?

Um, yeah. Scratch that.

Me and Maggie, or Double R's Magic Carbon, if you're not into the whole brevity thing

I have spent the last few months dating an exceptional gentleman who happens to be part owner of a farm and full owner of a horse. Last week, as I was slathering stain on his wooden deck in a somewhat disgruntled fashion, he turned to me and said, "Would you want a horse that's a few hands shorter than mine?"

Yes. The answer was yes. I did.

And now I own a horse for the first time ever.

Maggie 1
This is my googly, excited face.

And even though I'm a Kentucky girl, I'm not really a rural person. Spending time on a farm has been pretty substantial life change and, more importantly, sartorial adjustment.

As you know, I didn't have to acquire any cowboy boots. But I'm pretty impractical as a rule and finding appropriate clothing has been somewhat of an issue. I told my gentleman friend when we were first dating that he would have to be blunt about whether or not I'm appropriately equipped for whatever country adventure we were undertaking.

He has so far thoroughly discouraged wearing dresses to go horseback riding.

This young lady and I disagree.

And while still fine-tuning my pastoral style, I have found outfits that function to bridge my affinity for downtown hipster clubs and my increasing propensity to haunt hillbilly barn dances.

Let's discuss!

dress: Anthropologie; belt: Natural Bridge Trading Post

Ahhhh yes. The denim dress. This one was plucked from the clearance bin of my local Anthropologie so you  can be sure that not only was it once outrageously priced, it is also beautifully designed and good to go for work, play, farm, or dance party.

Bonus points, I feel, for the trucker belt.

dress: vintage Betsey Johnson; ruffle slip: Free People; necklace: A Gal Named Cinda Lou; clogs: Free People

I wore this little number to my daytime office job. The only change needed when I headed to Rabbit Hash?

Dogs love blogs. It's a fact.

Cowboy boots. How'd you guess?

poncho: Rabbit Hash General Store; dress: Free People; necklace: vintage and A Gal Named Cinda Lou; boots: thrift

I've also found that ponchos are a good all-around accessory. When you're in an art gallery, your poncho says, "I support hand-crafted textiles and enjoy the volume that this piece brings to my silhouette." When you're at a bonfire, it screams, "Holy crap, I don't want to freeze to death!"

At the Big Bone Lick State Park Salt Festival... Go ahead and giggle. It's funny.

Ponchos also go well with roasted corn and hot apple cider.

Bodysuit: Tigerlilly; skirt: Free People; belt: thrifted; boots: thrifted

I've also been donning a number of long, flowy skirts. They are cool as hell right now and also play an important role in keeping my girl parts covered when I'm hiking through the hills or crafty flea market.

We Haltermons are hearty hikers.

Long skirts, ponchos, boots, and denim dresses: My short list for crafting outfits that can take you anywhere and ensure you're happening and somewhat appropriate.

Any other suggestions?

You can find a rundown of my latest adventures in my personal blog, Pump Up the Frump, and judge for yourself how apropos my gear is. I go from an 80s party to a historical day trip to a country bar,  gay pride parade, and costume party...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Jane Austen's Design & Diversity

by frédérik sisa

Jane Austen has nothing whatsoever to do with today’s topic. With that disclaimer out of the way…
While I’m waiting for my ships to come back to port, I thought I’d piggyback this week’s post on an interesting discussion going on at Every Clog Has Its Day. Spurred by Lindsey and the Guy Day Friday series, Ugglebo clogs expressed an interest in receiving feedback on what men (and women) would like to see in men’s clog designs. Naturally, the opinionator almost blew a fuse. Here was my contribution to the discussion:
The challenge in answering Ugglebo’s question is that personal tastes don’t necessarily scale to the mass market, particularly when it comes to North America’s generally conservative male fashion. While I would love to see more avant-garde, deconstructed, or otherwise architectural designs – male equivalents to United Nude or Zaha Hadi’s work for Melissa Plastic Dreams – I’m not sure these would be sellable on a large enough scale to make it financially viable for Ugglebo. Similarly, while I have no personal interest in wearing high-heeled clogs yet fully respect those men who do, I don’t think high heeled men’s clogs will appeal to the mainstream. Offering larger sizes in women’s styles would apparently satisfy what is arguably a niche clientele, but I strongly suspect it will remain a niche for the foreseeable future. Fair or not, men’s fashion has to be marketed specially towards men because many men will be uncomfortable (if not hostile) towards the notion of wearing apparel or accessories styled and generally marketed for women.
Obviously, marketing has to start with the very character of the design. In my opinion, one approach is to offer designs that are fundamentally u
nisex, as some clog makers do, if not stick with variations on the traditional clog design. Another is to look at the styles of men’s shoes that actually sell and adapt those styles to create clog designs that appeal to men. Dividing up the possibilities in terms of form, colour, and ornamentation, I think there is a surprising amount of potential in today’s offerings for men. Simply offering clog sand als would be a welcome departure from the usual closed-toe clog, but any of the formal, ornamental, or colour options would be compelling both personally and, I believe, market-wide.

A a glance at the sandals selection at Zappos reveals the kind of sandals men will buy – slides, fisherman sandals, slingbacks, even designs with toe rings such as this Mt. Louis slide from Naot:

Combine any of these proven sellers with a wooden sole and a marketing campaign focused specifically on men and I think the sales would follow. Les Sabot d’Isa’s new Jeff style – a slide upper on a wood base – is a great example.

Why Naot give Les Sabots d'Isa's Jeff the toe ring treatment?

An intriguing alternative – one that I haven’t seen yet although my knowledge of clogs is far less than Lindsey’s – involves “dress clogs”, shoes with the upper of a dress shoe and a sole of wood. Looking to stylish brands like Stacy Adams for inspiration, dress clogs would be explicitly designed to fit into contemporary business and formal men’s wear. Closed back would be nice, but an open back option would make really make the design edgy while maintaining harmony with a clog look.
Could Stacy Adams' Jonathan be clogified into a open-backed wooden-soled shoe?


Although it isn’t true, from a global perspective, that men are averse to ornamentation or patterns, the trend seems to be to avoid the potentially for frilliness by keeping designs simple. Yet, despite that, I think is always an opportunity to go beyond the minimalist. Buckles and straps, for example, can easily add some visual interest. Interestingly, Harley Davidon took this sort of approach in regards to the designs of their women’s footwear. They took the straps and buckles of biker boots and used them on “women’s” shoe styles – clogs and sandals – to toughen them up. The result could just as easily be unisex or masculine, as Harley Davidson's Trixi and Adalyn demonstrate.
Harley Davidson's Adalyn Clog. A Road Clog?


As with ornamentation and patterning, bright colours aren’t at all incompatible with men’s footwear. Here in North America, however, the palette inevitably trends towards black, brown, or tan. I do think, however, that there is room for darker colours – burgundy, navy, forest, charcoal – that can be visually interesting without being overpowering. There may even be room for the occasional pop…John Fluevog’s men’s shoes offer a good example of colour in men’s shoes that go beyond the usual options.

Other folks contributed their keen insights as well, both through Lindsey's posts and in the comments. It’s a discussion of design and diversity, along with our expectations, worth checking out even if clogs in-and-of-themselves fill you with a sense of dread.

I’m very curious as to what Ugglebo’s response will be.

In the meantime, ladies and gentlemen, I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you think men’s fashion design could be improved? Your answer doesn’t have to be confined to clogs…go wild in the comments below.

Note: Usual disclaimer about the images belonging to their respective brands and used only for illustrative purposes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

...and custom clothes for all

by frédérik sisa

The Clown Prince of Crime's henchmen wonder: “Where does he get those wonderful clothes?” Answer: They're custom made by a tailor who doesn't really care about where the money comes from.

If money were plentiful, I’d design my own clothes and have them made by a professional tailor. But I’m not rich, so like most people I turn to off-the-shelf items more often than not. It’s particularly wonderful, then, when companies leverage their production methods to offer customized products at accessible prices. So this week, I’m introducing a new kind of feature tied to a new set of links in the right sidebar: online DIY custom design options in apparel and footwear, where YOU get to customize a product to your liking.

Milk & Honey

A brand started and run by shoe-loving sisters Llissa and Dorian Howard, Milk & Honey is dedicated to providing women with affordable custom footwear YOU can design, ranging from pumps, booties, and wedges to flats and sandals. I’m intrigued enough to consider featuring them in a future post…


A brand that needs no introduction. But did you know you can get your own custom Chucks? Go ahead. Enjoy yourself.


Timberland isn’t normally a brand I think about, but the fact that you can get customized boat shoes in all kinds of colours is speaking to me. Whether it’s saying “buy me” or not remains to be seen. In any case, the online design-your-own-shoes interface is pretty snazzy. If Timberland’s your thing, you should definitely give it a whirl.


With some jeans starting at $155, indi’s offerings are at the edge of what I’d consider reasonable for a pair of jeans. The fact that you can customize them takes the sting out of the price. I do wish, however, that they offered more options. For example, how about offering some real flared options, not just bootcuts? In any case, Indi is a good start, especially with their online design tool.


A spin-off of Troentorp clogs, Maguba is a hip, vibrant clog company that redefines the clog as an item of genuinely fun fashion. Enjoy a trip through the Wayback machine with the interview I did with Maguba’s Sebastian Macliver by clicking here. Then take advantage of the fact that you can customize your own Maguba clogs by choosing a style along with colours for the base and upper. Check it out.

Love Heals

You’ll recall this recent discovery during a trip to Ojai; I featured this unique jeweler right here not too long ago. Their online designer lets you build your own dream jewelry using a dizzying variety of beads, chains, ornaments, charms, and all that jewely goodness. About the only thing that might put a damper on hours of fun is the way the costs can add up, but with so many choices you don’t need to napalm a hole in your wallet.

If you get the chance to try these or any other custom design options, I’d love to hear about it, as would other Fashionoclast readers. So don’t hesitate to share your experiences, good or bad!

Note: Logo images belong to the respective brands and are only used here because plain text links are boring. Also, the image of the Joker from Batman belongs to Warner Bros and is used here only as a gratuitous attention-getting gimmick. Images will be removed at the copyright owners’ request.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thrift Store Cowboy

I would like to preface this by saying that I do not own, nor have I ever owned, a horse.

Frédérik's post got me thinking about transgender footwear and so, while I do not own a pony, I have ponied up and bought about half a dozen pairs of cowboy boots.

05-21 boots
These have never seen a pasture.

Lemme emphasize the fact that these are not dainty sweet cowgirl boots. Because I have man-sized feet and a thrift shop budget, I've acquired a collection of men's rodeowear that would make a bull-rider blush.

The pointy toe and thick sole that are integral to cowboy footgear do nothing to camouflage my massive hooves but I love them anyway. The straight, ankle-disguising sides make them the perfect shape to balance out a skinny jean look, as their unnecessary girth makes your legs look trim as hell.

Exhibit A

Not only that, the distinctive toes poke out intriguingly under a pair of jeans.

Exhibit B

As you can see, the anatomy of the boot is somewhat perfect. Even better are the connotations attached to it. People are always surprised to see me pairing a cowboy boot with a skirt.

02-15 detail
Giddyup, lace tights!

Which is strange because ladies have been rocking frocks and cowgirl boots since the beginning of time...

Loretta Lynn
Oh, Loretta Lynn

Best of all: you can wear them ANYWHERE. Cowboy boots are formal, casual, comfortable, and infinitely wearable.

I've even taken them hiking. And yes, I go hiking in dresses.

Also, if you know where to shop, you can get them for a song at a thrift store.

06-26 boots
My favorite boots, ever, purchased at the Village Thrift store in Newport, KY for $30.

What more could you want?