Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ikat... Resist It! (Get it? Ikat... I Can't... Yeah, ok.)

Lately, I've been fascinated by long skirts. It's my obsession of the moment- these long skirts. I just keep picturing myself all bohemian and carefree on a California beach with my skirt and hair flying in the wind... One can dream.

Long skirts are definitely something you want in your wardrobe. They are versatile and easy to wear. Right now, I'm planning on adding a long slim dark skirt in either black, brown, or dark grey that I can pair with a loose or blousy top for a slightly dressed up, but still casual look. As well as a slightly more A-line skirt in a fun pretty pattern that I can wear with a simple tee or tank top and go to the Farmer's Market. I spent the whole day shopping yesterday trying to find the perfect one but couldn't find anything worth spending money on. There was always something just not right about it.

So today, I decided to go make my own. I had tried on this skirt from Old Navy, (I know! Old Navy! But I'm the type of person who finds what I like regardless of where I find it.) But the problem was one: it was a little too long for my short stature, and two: the colors were just a bit too dark and muted for something summery. 

However, I have to say, there is a huge, huge trend in ikat prints. I may be just a little bit late to the game. I remember reading in a Vogue somewhere like, four years ago, that ikat was in and they mentioned something about Turkey (the country) and I can just recall thinking, "Ew, that is one ugly print." Granted, the example they showed was a mess of green, yellow, orange, and brown, and honestly, it looked like vomit. So since then, I consciously resisted getting into ikat. 

Of course, I had to buy these pillows, and suddenly, I realized, ikat is amazing! It's gorgeous, it's different, it comes in all colors, it's awesome! 

Plus, upon further research on Wikipedia, I found this snippet:

"Ikat weaving styles vary widely. Many design motif may have ethnic, ritual or symbolic meaning or have been developed for export trade. Traditionally, ikat are symbols of status, wealth, power and prestige. Because of the time and skill involved in weaving ikat, some cultures believe the cloth is imbued with magical powers."

Magical powers! Prestige! Status! How could you possibly say no to all that in a simple, beautiful woven design?

So yeah, I bought a sheer crinkly fabric in blue and white ikat. It's so beautiful and I'm terrified to cut it now in case I screw it up royally... much like I do with most of my sewing project. (Ha. Not.)

That's not to say that I didn't have to keep resisting ikat. I did, but only because I wanted it. Oh, so bad. Ikat prints and color under the sun, just beckoning to me. 

Do you like ikat? Do you prefer it for apparel or home decor? I think it's perfect for both as long as you use it in moderation. It's a big bold print and trust me, it'll be flattering on all figures.

For those who want to learn more, here's an excerpt from Wikipedia about the ikat process:

"Ikat, or Ikkat, is a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles that employs a resist dyeing process similar to tie-dye on either the warp or weft fibres.

Bindings, which resist dye penetration, are applied to the threads in the desired patterns and the threads are dyed. Alteration of the bindings and the dyeing of more than one color produce elaborate, multicolored patterns. When all of the dyeing is finished the bindings are removed and the threads are ready to be woven into cloth.

The defining characteristic of ikat is the dyeing of patterns, by means of bindings, into the threads before cloth construction, the weaving of the fabric, takes place. Herein lies the difference between ikat and tie-dye. In tie-dye the fabric is woven first and the resist bindings are then applied to the fabric which is dyed.

Ikat is a near universal weaving style common to many world cultures. Likely, it is one of the oldest forms of textile decoration."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to Wear Birdcage Bohemia Necklaces

You might be surprised to find that I don't make much of an effort to follow trends. Half the time, I find them ridiculous and unflattering. (Cropped tops, anyone?) I rather wear the clothes, I don't want the clothes to wear me; so having it fit well and look good is of utmost importance. And of course, it makes the perfect backdrop to gorgeous accessories.

In my day-to-day life, I actually have just one or two go-to pieces that I reach for. On other days, I like take some of the Birdcage jewelry out for a spin. It's good because then I can really analyze the piece while wearing it- how well it hangs, the comfort of wearing it, etc. I know that some people may be intimidated by the style. The jewelry is unique and certainly makes a statement. However, it's not that difficult to wear them. 

I gravitate to neutrals, and it shows through in all the jewelry I make. I tend to not use bright colors or loud patterns because I want these pieces to be wearable in any situation. The neutral colors are bound to go with anything in your closet. There is a demure quality to the pieces. They don't scream, "Look at me!" at first glance, but rather, they subtly catch your attention. But when they do, they never fail to please.

So how do you wear them? The necklaces at least for this one.

I love, love, love pairing modern silhouettes with the vintage style. For example, I layered the black and grey neo-Victorian inspired necklace over a simple, sleek blue dress. The contrast adds interest to the overall look but one doesn't overwhelm the other. Another favorite is this three layer white beaded necklace with turquoise. It pops and draws your attention so you want to keep the rest of the outfit simple.

This scotch medallion and black rosary combination would look fabulous with a plain white tank and jeans. It adds that perfect oomph to an otherwise unadorned outfit. In fact, nearly all of these necklaces, like the glass Indonesian beads necklace, are destined for that classic combination be it a white tank, a black top, brown or grey, whatever your poison. See my favorite recommendations:

If you were wearing something sweet and romantic like a top with ruffles or something with a lace neckline, you can up the romance factor with an elegant necklace like the green Avon pendant and rhinestone necklace or the sparkly rosary and tiger pendant necklace here.


This three strand chain with the watch face necklace would be absolutely lovely nestled beneath the lapels of a schoolboy blazer while the giant key and Chinese propaganda medallion set is the perfect anchor to a light, wispy cardigan.

If you think in terms of contrasts, it makes it a lot easier to pair necklaces to your outfit. If your outfit is really light and floaty, you can use a more substantial necklace to add some weight. Think of those popular catalogs featuring girls in big white dresses and black motorcycle boots, only that look is accessible every day with necklaces. It's the same for simple outfits. Just a top and jeans? No problem, add a necklace and boom, you've got a look and something everyone will be noticing and asking you about. And sometimes, you just want to play up the whole pretty, feminine look and adding the right piece becomes the perfect amount of icing on the cake.

You really can't go wrong. If you love a piece and love wearing it, there's no right or wrong way to wear it. Just the fact that you are thrilled to have your favorite piece on around your neck will make the whole thing fit just right in the end.

How would you wear some of these pieces? What's your favorite? Do you have any questions? Feel free to comment below!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The World Has Curves - A Study on Body Image Around the World

I'm in the image business. I make and sell things that people view as beautiful, wear to look beautiful, and have to feel beautiful. Sometimes, I succeed; sometimes, I don't. When I do succeed, I know it's a huge accomplishment. We live in a society where those who are in complete and whole acceptance of their body are hard to find. That's why the information found in The World Has Curves by Julia Savacool resonates so deeply.

Savacool takes an in-depth look at various cultures around the world and how women within each group view their bodies. She presents the idea that each culture's ideal body image is formed from the desire to be a part of the upper class. She admits that in order to study each culture, she had to make broad generalizations, but I could not fault her for that, because there is a grain of truth behind everything.

In China, the ultra-rich spend their money on plastic surgery and expensive face products in hopes of getting better jobs with bigger pay. While in Japan, the women favor lean, strong figures with large breasts. They'll choose breast augmentation, but also spend their money at various fitness centers and health clubs, choosing to work on, and indulge in, their bodies.

In Jamaica and, similarly, South Africa, having extra weight on one's frame is desirable- showing one had the money to spend on food. However, a shape must be maintained. Jamaica favors the so-called "Coca Cola Bottle" shape, formed after seeing the American imported glass Coca Cola bottles. South Africa goes back to their roots and embraces larger, more shapely butts and thighs as well as breasts. Fiji also followed the same cultural values until they came on the scenes as a major tourist spot. The arrival of the Western world in the form of fancy hotels, televisions with their Western programs, and advertisements spurred a desire for a body ideal very similar to the one we're familiar with here in the United States. The first documented case of anorexia occurred after Fiji became a resort hotspot.

Afghanistan was the most surprising. Savacool was quick to point out that burkas were a choice for women to wear before Taliban rule. She spoke with some women who expressed a desire to wear burkas, regardless of state law, because it was convenient. One didn't have to worry about their hair and make up when running errands. They are shielded from much of Western influences and therefore have not adopted our common ideals. The preferred body type is chubby with no real shape with a pretty face and long dark hair. Again, this speaks to the Jamaican and South African ideal of weight equals money.

Which brings us to the strange paradox of the American ideal where, in general, the poorest communities are usually made up of larger people and the richer class tend to be slimmer. We do not equate weight with money; we equate health, fitness, and slimness with money.

Of course, with the rapid globalization of the world, we're all slowly headed towards a homogeneous mindset. The key point is that most of these women interviewed expressed discontent with their bodies. The ones who seemed the most accepting were those from Afghanistan, the ones shielded from much outside influence as well as influence from men, considering their burkas. Perhaps we need to think about pulling on some sort of invisible shield. Stop looking to media for guidance and start looking within ourselves for acceptance. 

There's a lot of things about my body I'd like to change. Things I'd say I "hate." But you know what that means? I'm actually saying I hate myself. How can anyone live life if they hate themselves and the only body they get to live life in? It's crazy! I need to quit it, we all do. So I'm proposing a deal we should make with our bodies. We'll stop treating it so badly, stop hating it, stop feeding it crappy food, stop beating it up emotionally and physically. 

I'm making a pledge that whenever I find myself hating on my problem area, which is my tummy, I'll stop myself. I'll say to my tummy, "Look, I know you stick out more than I like, and sometimes when I eat too much, you press uncomfortably against my waistband. But you know what? You're my tummy and you get to hold all that yummy food and you help fuel my body so I can do my yoga routines and walk with my boyfriend and go shopping and make jewelry. So thank you, tummy." And move on. I'd like you to make that pledge with me for whatever problems you have with your body. It's time we took our body image back, don't you think?

How do you feel about your body? Do you hate on it too much or try not to? Do you accept your body? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

*Thanks to Dove Soap for the great body acceptance photo above!*

Friday, May 18, 2012

How to Make a Picture Frame with Cardboard and Fabric

One of my biggest irritations in life is finding a great print in a vintage shop and having to find a frame to go with it. Maybe I'm just overly picky, maybe I'm just being really cheap (likely the second one,) but it's just a pain in the butt to know I'll have to shell out an upwards of sixty bucks just so I can hang the damn thing on my wall. 

Now, getting multiple cardboard cuts on my fingers is totally not a pain in the ass. Not in my world, apparently. So you know where I'm going with this...

So, this is a print I found and bought for the bargain price of $6. Yes, six whole dollars. That's music to my small-budget ears. Of course, it's unframed. I had planned to get a real frame since I came across an arsenal of coupons for Joann Fabric and Michael's. The truth is, I really just wanted to make something, so this print became my guinea pig.

So yes, I made this:

All it took was a bunch of tacky glue, fabric remnants, cardboard, and scissors. And measuring tape, I guess. You know, measure twice, cut once, whatever.

Here's how I did it:

First, you cut out a frame out of a big piece of cardboard, measuring (eyeballing) so it's the same width all the way around and slightly overlapping the edge of your print by like, a millimeter. 

Then, you flip it over and cut out long strips of a light colored canvas-like fabric. I used duck fabric I found in the fabric remnants section. The strips of fabric should be wide enough to fold over to the back and glue down. 

This procedure was done to the two short sides:

You can see I cut the inside corners so I could fold the fabric around the inside edge.

I, then, cut two strips of fabric for the wider sides, but cut them wide enough so I could fold them in a diagonal line from the inside corner to the outside corner shown to the right, and I folded up the bottom, shorter edge and secured it.

I folded the top excess fabric down and stapled it in place. The staples didn't show through to the other side so I just left it, augmenting it with a bit of glue here and there.
This is what it looks like on the front side:

Once the small frame was done, I cut out another piece of cardboard for the larger part of the frame, overlapping the smaller frame slightly; just like how the smaller frame overlapped the print. Since it was larger, I had to piece together strips of cardboard and staple them together. You probably would have a better looking frame if you were able to find a large piece of cardboard and just cut out a square in the middle. Using a different, contrasting fabric, I repeated the same process I did with the smaller frame. This fabric was a silky dark blue fabric which also provided a visual textural differences as well.

Before covering it with fabric, I stapled, on the back, a twist-tie that will be used as the hanger. It's using common household items at its finest!

Once the larger frame was covered, I put it all together. Typically, one would layer the large frame over the smaller frame over the print. However, when I tested that, I didn't like how it looked. I ended up placing the print underneath the smaller frame, but then, I put the two pieces on top of the larger frame, creating a slight pop-out 3D effect. I literally just taped it all together with packing tape, strategically placing them on corners and at intervals along the sides.

Once it was done, I realized I probably should've ironed the fabric-covered frames before putting it all together. It would eliminate all the folds and creases and evened everything out. Keep that in mind when you're doing this project. 

All in all, the project took me about 2 to 3 hours. It took that long because I kept testing different ways of folding and gluing, so for you, it would probably take a little bit less. The configurations are endless. You can do a single big frame, or make multiple little ones to overlap, or use completely different kinds of fabric. The best part about this is you can make it exactly how you want it and not be limited by the ready-to-hang frames found at the store or feel the pain of emptying your wallet at the custom frame counter.

Will you do this? What would you have done differently? If you do, feel free to share your experience and photos here in the comments or on the Birdcage Bohemia Facebook page!