Reflective Wear-to-Work Challenge, in Review

I did it! I wore something I have made to work for thirteen days in a row! I’m pretty impressed – even I didn’t realize I’d made so much reflective bike fashion!

Week 2

Week One Collage

Week Three

One of the days was sort of a bonus day, since I only made the reflective sash I tied on over my dress and cardigan, so it was more like 12 +1 days.

Seeing everything like this makes me wonder if I need to be more strategic about my projects. Should I try to design mini “collections” each season, that all work together? Or should I just do whatever catches my fancy, as I have been doing? The two projects I’m working on right now, pants and a fancy sweatshirt, are designed to coordinate, although I’m not sure they will once both are done! We’ll see.

But the point of this whole initial idea was to make things I could wear at the office, as well as just around town. Part of me feels like I need to be therefore more strategic, and consider my work shoes and blazers and so on, to make sure everything works together a bit more. Not that any of this is inappropriate, but I could probably step it up a bit.

I also posted each outfit every morning on Instagram (I’m disguised as @earlettef), and on one of the days, I decided to tag the McCalls Pattern Company. They were interested enough that they asked if they could post the top, McCalls 6792, on their Facebook page. Well of course! It got at least 100 “Likes,” 12 Shares, and several comments. I was pretty pleased by that!

McCalls Facebook Love

McCalls Facebook Love

I think it also shows that there could be a market for nice clothing that as reflectivity sewn into it, clothing that does even whisper “tech,” that is just fashionable yet functional. But how best to focus that? I’m still deciding.

It’s been fun wearing my own designs, but the rest of my closet missed me, so for a while, I’ll sort through what is left. Now that the weather has cooled off a bit, it means it could be time to dust off the tweed! Yay!

I need to redesign my sewing space and desk, too...

I need to redesign my sewing space and desk, too…


Busy Bike Fashion Week

It’s been a busy week, but bike fashion hasn’t been far from my mind. I continued my reflective wear-to-work challenge, reviewed some bike accessories for The Discerning Cyclist, tested my new Iladora bike top, and got up today at 6am to order the Altuzarra for Target blouse I wanted. Oh, and pre-ordered the new iPhone 6!

I was only able to get in three days of my reflective wear-to-work bike fashion challenge. One day I had to wear the work polo, and I was off the last day of the week, so that meant only three days. On the plus side, it means I can probably do all this coming week! The weather has cooled off enough that I’m not sure about my sleeveless tops, but I’ll risk it!

I got some fun bike accessories from Bike Belle, to review for The Discerning Cyclist. I am very fussy particular about what I put on my bike, but I ended up loving these! Now my bike has a front basket from Denmark, skirt guards from Sweden, and a bike bell from Poland. What next?! I’ll share the review when it’s on the website, but I’ll give you a sneak peek.

Notice anything different about my bike? Think small accessories....

Notice anything different about my bike? Think small accessories….

I broke down and ordered The Lisa Top from Iladora, in pink. I was so excited that they came out with some colors, and it was a dilemma to decide between the blue and the pink, but pink won out. It’s a bit more mauve-y than I was expecting, but I am very happy with it. If you aren’t familiar with Iladora, it is a San Francisco company that also makes pants and a skirt. The top is bamboo jersey, cut with dolman sleeves for comfort, and that all important dropped hem for coverage. It’s super-comfy; the cut of the sleeves means that nothing binds or constricts the arms while biking. (I will say, however, that it is snug over the part of my waist that I’m currently most self-conscious about, and I’m not happy about that – but I know it is my fault, and not the top’s problem.) But overall, I’m happy with it!

For those of you who don’t know, Target teams up with haute couture designers occasionally, and these collaborations turn into big shopping frenzies on the day of the launch. So far I’ve gotten stuff from Liberty of London, Missoni, Jason Wu, and Proenza Schouler, all high-end designers I couldn’t normally afford. The launch of the Missoni collection crashed Target’s system; luckily I’d gotten up super early to order what I wanted online. I did go stand in line at the store for the Jason Wu collection, but also ordered online while standing there! Today was the launch of Altuzarra for Target, and I had planned on getting up at 6am to bike to Target to get in line, but when I checked the website on my phone at 6:12am, and the blouse I wanted was available, I opted to order online and go back to bed. I was tempted to go to the store later in the day, but considering I just pre-ordered the iPhone 6, well, I couldn’t risk being lured into buying something else.

The Altuzarra for Target blouse I ordered

The Altuzarra for Target blouse I ordered. No idea what to wear them with – now I need new pants!

So this week I need to buckle down and alter the pants pattern and get them cut out. I started making the reflective bias, but I think I need more! I’ve created a monster.



The Reflective Wear-to-Work Challenge

I was so excited by mountain biking that I forgot all about my most recent two sewing projects! And since they prompted me to challenge myself, I think I need to share all this with you.

First of all, I finished both the satiny pajama pants and the #@$%^% gray silky top I was struggling with. As it turned out, I am very happy with both of them.

Silkie PJ pants with reflective piping down each leg.

Silky PJ pants with reflective piping down each leg.

Blouse reflecting, and in it's Clark Kent state (that is, not reflecting)

Blouse reflecting, and in it’s Clark Kent state (that is, not reflecting)

Wearing the blouse to work!

Wearing the blouse to work!

Now that The Mechanic works a “normal” schedule, it’s easier to get him out the door to take a picture of me in my sewing projects in the morning. This means I can have everything photographed! Although our limited time means you’ll get really tired of the same spot in front of our apartment….

Actually, what prompted my Reflective Work Wear Challenge was the realization that I have actually made quite a few things in the last few years. So I decided to see how many days in a row I could wear something I’ve made. Week One was all four days, and I think I can get through another 2 weeks! It’s of course weather dependent, and although I have other reflective clothing, it’s not stuff I have made, so that doesn’t count either. And much of it will depend on my work schedule – I’m not sure it’s exactly client meeting-friendly. But I’ll see – that’s the point of a challenge, right?!

So this is the outcome of Week One:

You can also see everything else on me and my bike that are reflective!

You can also see everything else on me and my bike that are reflective!

I’ll sum up, in case you can’t tell in the photos. From Top Left: the shoulders on the dress are reflective purple material and are lit up in the photo; the stripes on the edge of the skirt are iron-on reflective grosgrain (available at JoAnn Fabrics); the gray tux stripe is edged with the reflective piping (the red Cole Haan oxfords show up white with the flash on); and the waist and neckline of the blue peplum top are reflective (as are the silver Cole Haan loafers).

I counted two skirts, three dresses, four tops, one blazer (trimmed, not sewn), and two pairs of pants, total, not including the pants I’m starting and the sweatshirt that is the next project. So I can stretch out a while still! One of the tops is a cooler weather sweatshirt, so I hope to get a few cool days in soon to wear it.

I also made myself a reflective sash yesterday, to replace the wonderful reversible obi sash I lost in Sacramento last November. So with that additional accessory, I have at least one more outfit – I have the cutest dress with which it looks great. So I have eight or nine days to go! Stay tuned to see what comes this week. I’ll be interested in feedback, favorite pieces or looks, etc., so take notes!

My new reflective sash. Not reversible and not very wide, but I love the color and the print it's lined with.

My new reflective sash. Not reversible and not very wide, but I love the color and the print it’s lined with.

At Last, Mountain Biking!

At last, I have tried mountain biking. And I can say that it did not start off well. It just barely ended on an up note. Someday, somehow, I must get over my fear of falling and smashing in my teeth.

The Mechanic and I went camping near Harrisonburg, VA, just overnight, for his birthday. Ironically, most of the bike-y people I know were not far away, doing the Shenandoah Mountain 100. From the scraped up arms and ribs I saw at work today, a good time was had by all.

Even a place for disabled hunters to go!

Even a place for disabled hunters to go!

Our campsite was a “no facilities” park, Slate Lick Fields, that catered to campers with horse trailers, and the location was indeed full of horses. We got the last available campsite, at the end of the road, which was perfect – large, fairly flat, and next to a lovely stream. The campsite was next to the access road to the reservoir, which was where we went for my First Ever Mountain Bike Ride.

Definitely no facilities.

Definitely no facilities.

Slate Lick Lake, which they are draining to do repairs.

Slate Lick Lake, which they are draining to do repairs.

Because it was a reservoir, rather than a lake, it was uphill to get there – which mean downhill coming back. I didn’t like that part at all. The trail was full of very large pebbles, and I was terrified of slipping, so I walked down most of it. The flat parts were mostly okay. The Mechanic was convinced I wouldn’t like mountain biking.

However, after brunch at The Little Grill Collective in Harrisonburg, we went out to Hillandale Park, a park with mountain biking trails that The Mechanic has talked about before (a lot).

"Green space packed with activity areas"

“Green space packed with activity areas”

Although I asked to walk the train before we got the bikes out, I was encouraged by what I saw – packed dirt, not loose rock. So we got the bikes out. The Mechanic wisely opted against offering unsolicited advice, and let me go at it my own speed, and this paid off. I didn’t get pissed off, and I eventually felt more comfortable with the bike (did I mention this was the First. Time. Ever. on this bike, too?), and on the trails. I did get off and walk over the biggest rock clusters in the trail, but by the time the heat and humidity did us in, I was beginning to get more confident about going over roots and small rocks. Yay!

In fact, I’m looking forward to trying it again, and soon, before I lose my nerve. I think that I could eventually begin to slowly lose my fear of smashing my face. Hey, I had a lot of dental work in junior high and don’t want to do that again! (My mother would thank me for this as well.)

Lessons Learned:

  • Uphill, ironically, was more comfortable than going downhill. Am I the only one here?
  • Letting me work through it on my own was the best way to learn.
  • Being confident on one bike doesn’t automatically mean I’ll be confident on another bike.
  • Perhaps wearing a skirt on a mountain bike isn’t the best idea. It kept catching on the nose of the saddle. This, of course, leads to the last lesson:
  • I need new clothes in which to mountain bike!

What do  you do to help get past fear of something you really want to try? I’m open to tips! (And I just solicited them, so no worries there!)

Feeling better!

Feeling better!

Once I get past the fear, hopefully I'll love mountain biking almost as much as The Mechanic!

Once I get past the fear, hopefully I’ll love mountain biking almost as much as The Mechanic!

Teal, then Shades of Gray

I’ve always switched up my color palettes with the seasons, not necessarily intentionally, or based on what the “in” seasonal color might be (I hear it’s burgundy/oxblood for this fall), but whatever strikes my fancy. It is sometimes guided by what is in the stores, so last fall when everything was teal, I happily embraced it, since it’s one of my favorite colors. It is also more or less my “Dramatic” color, according to my wrist and my friend David Zyla’s book, The Color of Style. But I hadn’t realized quite how much I’d embraced it until my latest sewing project.

Because sewing for me is not relaxing to me, more like an itch I need to scratch (Must. Design. Must. Create.), I like projects that I don’t need to linger over. The blouse I started last week ended up not being such a project, so I was pretty happy to crank out a pair of easy drawstring pants this week. Inspired by the drapey pants that are so in fashion at the moment, I picked a bright color peachskin and naturally threw some reflective trim in the seams. They are not 100% perfect; a better seamstress could have made them look smashing, but I really love them and can’t wait to wear them next week.

Not the most flattering photo, but I still love the pants!

Not the most flattering photo, but I still love the pants!

Hanging them in my closet made me realize how much of this color combination I have!

Spot a theme?

Spot a theme?

I’m not sure I’m brave enough to wear any one of these tops with the pants, well, maybe the denim shirt. It would be fun to wear the pants I made with the colorblocked top I made, though. But we’ll have to see. (I even have blue and gray heels!)

But my blouse and the two projects lined up after this are all shades of gray. Did the title make you look?! Ha ha – no, this is not about S&M sewing, although sometimes it does seem a bit sadistic. This blouse is a bit of torture to me at the moment, frankly. But it was given to me, and I really really love the print. However, my machine does not like to sew the silky stuff, and I can’t get the tension set correctly! I can’t find my guide book, either. The sleeves didn’t hem the way the pattern said it should, I hated the yoke neckline the pattern called for so I took it out, and if I actually hem the bottom, it becomes shorter than I’d prefer.

I’m going to attempt circular bias out of the silver reflective fabric I bought at Britex, and fold it over the sleeve edges. I think I’ll just do a reflective band on the waist so I don’t lose the length. I’m just not sure about the neck. I don’t want to make self bias because of how much I dislike working with this silky stuff, but that might be best. I don’t think it will need more reflective trim is the waist and sleeves already are. So I will need to sit on this one for a while. Slow wins the race, I’m told.

Then next two projects are also gray! Grays

I want to try complicated pants again. I don’t know why I have to like all the hard patterns! But look at how cool this pattern actually is, and how is just screams for reflective trim!

Butterick 6028 Pants

Butterick 6028 Pants

I picked a cool snakeskin print lightweight corduroy for these pants, and I think hope they will turn out really fun. I promised myself that I would take time with these, and not crank them out. I’d really like something to turn out nice, and not look “homemade” but I need to work harder at my technique to get that to happen.  And try to match the print, which I didn’t even try to do on the teal print pants and I really should have, oops. Beginner. snakeskin corduroy

By the time the blouse and pants are done (wonder if I can pull off wearing them together?), it should be cool enough for the next project, my silver sweatshirt. Silver Velour

I waltzed into Britex planning on buying a print and a solid, like the pattern sketch, but ended up with this soft silvery fabric that I really hope doesn’t make me look like I’m wearing a Florida retiree velour jogging suit. I hope that with the reflective trim it will look sorta… futuristic?

McCalls 9026

McCalls 9026

I think I should be able to wear this sweatshirt with both the snakeskin print pants and the teal print pants. I have two gray blazers that should work with either pair of pants, too, both of which I’ve been wearing a lot lately. One is gray velvet, so a dressier version of the sweatshirt I’m going to make. But it doesn’t have any reflective trim! So I guess I’ll be wearing a lot of gray this fall. That’s okay, since it’s also a David Zyla color for me, at least, the way I’m choosing to interpret my eye color.

And if I end up getting the gray booties I’m lusting after at the moment, I will complete my Shades of Gray looks for fall!

Crown Vintage Tabitha bootie on DSW - Love this gray!

Crown Vintage Tabitha bootie on DSW – Love this gray!

And for the record, no, I haven’t read the book.

Blogging for The Discerning Cyclist

In amongst everything else I’ve been doing, I have written a few product reviews for the UK bicycle style website, The Discerning Cyclist. The first two product reviews I did for them were products I’ve written about here, the REI Novara Whittier Bike Dress, and the Natril Gear Handlebar Bag. But after my honeymoon, I wrote a product review just for the Discerning Cyclist – about the lovely NOMONRO Dress Clips I bought in Amsterdam. You can read it here. I enjoy seeing my writing elsewhere, and I’m happy to share my opinions on bike fashion!

NOMONRO Dress CLip 3

However, with the publication of this review, I am now faced with a quandary – what else can I review for them?! Although I have many bike-y fashion things, most of it has now either been reviewed already and/or is no longer available. My cool North Face reflective shirt? So last year. My Cole Haan reflective shoes? Awesome, comfortable, cool, sassy – except they are no longer in stores (although I heard a few months ago that they were still in the outlet store in Leesburg, VA, so check that out, if you are nearby). Everything else I’ve made myself, and since I’m not at a point where I want to consider sewing for other people, well, I don’t think it would make any sense to “review” that.

Four reflective fashion projects lined up, yippee!

Four reflective fashion projects lined up, yippee!


So what can I review next? What should I review next? What can I afford to buy so I can review it?! I really want one of the several bike skirts out there (Iva Jean, Iladora, etc.), but I just spent a fortune on fabric and patterns, so it will be a while before I can do that. Any other ideas? I need some suggestions – or maybe donations? Think of The Discerning Cyclists and their need for more reviews of women’s clothing…

European Bike Style

Inspired by my meet up this past week with Bike Pretty, I decided it was time to share some observations from our  honeymoon about the bike style we saw in Europe.

As we all know, European approaches to style differ significantly from us. Speaking from our experiences in Zurich, the Bodensee area, Brussels and Bruges, and Amsterdam, I was surprised to notice several differences in each area. Cyclists in Zurich and Konstanz, for example, primarily use rear baskets to chart stuff around. This surprised me – I initially had a rear basket and didn’t like not being able to keep an eye on  my stuff. Of course, it looks very elegant, and Germans and Swiss definitely have much more trust and security when it comes to their bikes and accessories anyway.

In Belgium, we noticed something else – people still just locked their wheels up, not necessarily to the bike racks, but everyone had matching panniers that they just left on their bikes. I’d be too paranoid to do that here, but I was in awe of all the fun, lovely, colorful panniers! And totally jealous.

Most of the fun panniers were in Bruges, and it seemed as if every woman I saw on a bike was wearing a cute dress or skirt. And no wonder – there was a store not far from the town center with fun bike accessories! No, it wasn’t a bike shop, just a women’s clothing and accessories store, full of great shoes, fun purses, funky jewelry and clothing, and yes, bike bags, bells, stickers, and so on. This is what we need in the US – cute bike stuff sold not always in bike shops!


Plenty of bike style in Amsterdam, too, of course.  I expected that.


Style aside, there were many practical accessories that we don’t have easily available to us. I think my favorite was the stroller attachment, so you could hook your baby’s collapsible stroller to your bike, then have it handy when you and your child reach your destination. How smart!


Once again, I am in awe of the cycling culture in Europe, or at least in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands (I’d say Denmark too, but I think I covered that when I blogged about our trip there in 2012). Practical, yes, highly functional, yes, highly stylish, yes. And I haven’t even yet written about the infrastructure, and how the bike lanes we saw and experienced have forever changed my opinion on bike lanes in America. Stay tuned for that blog post!

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