The Charm of Gingham

I’ve always loved gingham and buy it whenever I can to brighten up my look. I’m so obsessed with it my younger brother swears every time I give him a new shirt, it’s gingham.

Throughout my research about the textile I discovered seven very interesting facts about it:

  • Characterized as “lightweight plain-woven cotton cloth” it’s usually in a checked pattern consisting of white and a vibrant contrasting color.
  • The word “gingham” is a reinvention of the Malayan term ganging (“striped).
  • Since the initial yarn is “dyed” before it’s woven it’s also known as “dyed in the yarn”.
  • Associated with more rural settings than urban in Europe and the United States, the fabrication reminds one of the country and rustic themes.
  • Gingham is popular with fashion designers during the summer, and is considered a “classic”.
  • It’s always been a favorite with Hollywood celebrities like Katherine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. Today the love affair continues and it’s been seen on Rihanna and Reese Witherspoon.
  • During the 17th-century when it was first “imported to Europe” it was striped instead of checked. Then in the mid-1800s when it was manufactured in England, it was woven into checks or plaids.

How to Wear Gingham:

Despite it’s pleasing appearance gingham isn’t easy to wear and has its own rules:

  • Shirts should grace the body, but fit comfortably loose too.
  • Gingham separates look amazing on people over 40.
  • For a retro vibe, cropped pants, pencil skirts, and tie-front tops are cool when made out of gingham and cut just so.
  • To make it appear more picturesque, coordinate it with splashy polka dots, wild leopard prints, and pretty florals. Even flannels will work, but as with all contrasting patterns, be mindful of color before trying.

Places to Buy Gingham Online:

Honoring the Fabulous Fifties in Back to School Clothes (Nostalgia Blog from 2018)

Blue and white striped Ralph Lauren shirt and red bead necklace

Now that I’m embarking on my third week back to school/work at my day job as a Special Education Instructional Assistant for LAUSD I’m more prepared to incorporate my current influences into my daily wardrobe. Over the summer I happily immersed myself in a more “put together” era, through Debbie Sessions’ historical 1950s style guides via  http://www.vintagedancer.com and the book, The Gown by Jo Ellison, I’m reading for the Fashion Book Lovers Group I’m in, on http://www.goodreads.com. Despite this reality hit, and the hectic initial schedule of the fall semester beckoned, forcing me to contemplate how to wear something comfortable, sturdy, attractive and individualistic.

Skinny Jeans

If I looked at the unofficial dress code for the part of the city I work in, I’d have skinny, pre-distressed jeans, leggings, tight slogan tees, pajama bottoms, short shorts and furry slides to choose from. If I incorporated my new ’50s inspirations, however, with the trends I saw in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and the new magazine Fudge I’d just bought at  Kinokuniya Books, I could definitely sidestep these overdone trends and come up with something more unique and personalized.

Freudian Book Page Decorations

Freudian Book Page Party Decorations

Learning Can Be Fun: Monday Week 1

With that in mind, I combined the old with the new and started my Monday with a brown and white swirl print jacket from Goodwill Thrift Store over a red plaid shirt from Ross and a pair of Mossimo jeans from Target. To give it that ’50s edge I accessorized the outfit with a yellow and brown retro print scarf tied as a doo rag around my hair, a strand of pearls and a pair of black cat-eye shades.

FIDM Tote Bag

Settling In: Monday Week 2

Contrasting the form-fitting elan of last Monday’s ensemble, my mood became increasingly relaxed as I entered the second week, and I chose to embrace the structured jacket + flowy pant look of the fifties, by coordinating a navy-blue blazer with a white button-down men’s shirt and orange and white polka-dotted tie-front pants from Kohl’s. Accented with a skinny navy-blue polka-dotted scarf, from Fallas I also introduced a touch of Prada into the mix.

Not Exactly “The Hunger” But Close Enough

From the start of the pandemic there was a question of whether or not God had cursed his people with another plague, now on March 20, 2022, that query was finally answered. Cloaked within a basic example about fashion the answer about the curse existed and proved to be two-fold. On one level it seemed as if he was punishing us for backsliding and reverting to immoral practices and on the other it seemed as if he wanted us to pause and reflect.

–Victoria Moore

All through the empty malls, restaurants, streets, and schools in my part of South Central Los Angeles an uneasy quietude seemed to unsettle some and enlighten others. Whenever I did see people, whether individually or in groups they were cordial but reserved. At times they even left a scent of perfumed sanitizer in the air.

After months of safety face masks, rubber gloves, and Zoom gear, the local fashion scene had changed to embrace the newly unemployed, shell-shocked shut-ins, and sartorially clueless. Those who’d consciously read Vogue, binge-watched old Project Runways, ordered new duds online, and kept up with their d.i.y. projects were at the top of the style pyramid, while those who’d wiled away the pandemic in tore up p.j.’s, old sweats, and tired trends were at the bottom. It appeared that the slackers who’d gotten comfortable and hadn’t tried to improve themselves in their self-imposed staycations slid downwards and those who did the opposite rose upwards.

So what do you do if you’re one of the slackers, and can’t see your way to your next style fix? You look to your closet for therapy, that’s what. Even if it’s full of things you bought seasons ago, it still has enough magic in there to make you happy, if you’d just mine for it.

In 2010, I was diagnosed with Stage IIA Breast Cancer, which meant I couldn’t work during the duration of my treatment. I didn’t have a job, yet still I had to change what I wore for my procedures. At first I didn’t know what I was going to do because at the time all I owned was a few things from Ross Dress For Less, and a lot of second-hand and vintage things I’d either inherited from my mother and grandmother or bought at various thrift stores and the Vintage Fashion Expo.

Refusing to give up, I examined the Japanese fashion magazines I’d collected when I’d had a job and could afford them, went to my closet, took everything out and started experimenting. In the process of playing with my wardrobe my closet became my therapy and my friend. All of a sudden I saw how my vintage orange floral sweater could work with a white button-down shirt and my vintage white skirt and how my second-hand Levi’s could work with a vintage print polyester blouse and my brown cowboy boots!

Realistically it’s a possibility that a good number of the businesses that tanked during the pandemic might not be able to make a comeback. A fact, I for one, would be devastated to see, but I guess like everyone else who wants to remain relevant and not die out like a dinosaur I’ll have to accept it as the “new normal”. One of the best ways to do that, especially if your appearance is suffering, is to turn to your wardrobe and make it your ally.

The Capitol Building

When I was first painted holding the basket of cotton on my head, with my left hand, in the mural Sharecroppers I thought I’d found peace in the Capitol building. There I stood for years wearing a long white dress and red bandanna for all to see.

Although something that old has seen a thing or two, I didn’t know anything could top the fire started by the British in 1814, until that group of “patriotic roustabouts” stormed it’s doors on January 6, 2021.

Around 1:10 PM I heard a lot of noise on the steps, when those so-called “rioters”, argued and fought with the police. Now I realize as a African-American sharecropper with no school learning that I’m not in a position to judge but as a long-timer of the Capitol building I am. So here goes… whatever beef those people had with the government or the country they needed to find a more peaceful way to say their piece. Since they can vote, they could’ve voted likewise in the last election, or even have complained in private, to their friends and family.

From 1:26 PM, when the Library of Congress was evacuated by the police force to 2:11 PM when rioters climbed the walls our reputation sank and we were never the same. A snake had entered our garden of Eden and we were scarred forever.

Beauty is Still Beauty

A Letter To LAUSD Students

Victoria Moore

Dear Students:

First of all I want to congratulate you on trying to get an education during such challenging times, and second I want to take the time to tell you how to get good grades regardless of your race, socioeconomic background, or ability. Fortunately since it doesn’t require money, a high IQ, or support from others, you don’t have to worry about that. What it does require, however, is hard work, persistence, and curiosity. Learning has to be your lifestyle and a lifelong commitment. That means no matter how old you are you should still be taking classes and adding to your store of knowledge, whether that’s through traditional written material (i.e., books, magazines, and newspapers) or on the Internet.

Now I’d like to reveal the tools I used to succeed in an extremely challenging MA program in Fashion Journalism at Academy Of Art University, where I earned all A’s and B’s.What made it twice as hard as an on-site program was it was all online and all of the courses were taught by professionals in the field. Since it was organized into 15 weekly modules, where you basically worked independently, it required excellent organizational, reading, and writing skills as well. While you probably aren’t dealing with a cirriculum this difficult yet, you can still utilize my tips to get better grades and more out of your classes and education.

Academic Tools:

Reading:

(a) Get a library card at a public library and check out a variety of books, for your age, every month. Then read about 20 minutes or a chapter a day. Besides finding books, and other materials, for fun you can also find books that will help you with school. The reference librarian and the library website is also another excellent resource for you while you’re going to school.

(b) Subscribe to a major urban newspaper (i.e., Los Angeles Times or The New York Times) that you can read for enjoyment and school projects. The Sunday edition, of both papers, would be a great choice because they have various sections that are very informative and well-written. Read these papers every week, and clip out relevant stories to use for school when needed. (If you can’t afford to subscribe to a newspaper, read it at the library, then Xerox whatever you need every week).

(c) Subscribe to a magazine that reflects your interests to build up your reading skills (i.e.,Vogue if you’re interested in fashion, etc.,). Read it every month, then at the end of the year, clip out relevant photos and articles that will help you for school when needed. (If you can’t afford to subscribe to a magazine, you can always splurge and buy one at the grocery or drug store, or read one or more at the library. Just like the newspapers, you can inexpensively Xerox whatever you need at the library).

(d) Read all of the materials required for your classes (i.e,. textbooks, class readings, etc.,) right after class, then write down any questions you have about parts of it you don’t understand so you can ask your teacher in class.

(e) Buy a dictionary and a thesaurus, then learn how to use them, by looking up words you don’t understand from class and whenever you read. This will not only improve your reading comprehension and vocabulary it will also improve your writing. (You can get an inexpensive dictionary at the 99 Cents store, etc.,).

Writing:

(a) Buy a small notebook, at the Dollar Tree and free write in it for five minutes everyday. You can make lists, create a story, express your feelings, anything you like, as long as you write.

(b) When in class (this includes Zoom classes too) make sure you have writing materials (i.e., spiral notebooks, notebook paper, pens, and pencils ✏️) so that you can write everything the teacher writes on the board and to take accurate notes. You can find inexpensive writing materials at the Dollar Tree,Target, etc.,

(c) Instead of sending a text or email to a friend or family member, write a letter. It’s another good way to practice your writing.

Organization:

(a) Buy a school assignment or datebook and record all of your assignments in it when they’re first assigned by the teacher (i.e., in the book you should always include the title, a description, and its due date).

(b) While working on projects, make a TO DO list of all of the things you have to do to complete it, then check them off as you complete them.

Lastly I hope these tips will help you and that it proves to you that learning can be fun once you learn how to navigate the academic arena. Good luck and take care.

Victoria Moore

Calm and Cool in Beige and Black

Black and white Calvin Klein cardie over black and beige striped sweater. I bought the cardie at “Ross” and the sweater at “Forever 21”.

  Before one of my  summer breaks I worked at an elementary school where we were preparing our class for their graduation. The dress code was explicitly explained in a letter home and instructed all females attending to wear attractive frocks or skirts and blouses and all males to either wear suits or a nice button-down shirt and dress slacks. I was subbing in a Special Day Class (SDC) with about eight Kindergarten and first-grade students, and in addition to supervising them, the teacher and teacher’s assistants were required to dance in a choreographed performance of  Ain’t No Stopping Us Nowcomplete with old school steps and hand gestures.

   I wanted to look nice, but also be comfy in case I had to do something like arrange chairs before the ceremony, so I decided to meet the challenge by putting on my beige mini trench coat over my short black Calvin Klein dress. I then accessorized it with black knee-highs, black men’s lace-up shoes, dark Audrey Hepburn shades and a gold “Betsey” Betsey Johnson necklace. After school, while waiting at the bus stop, a man asked me if he could give me a compliment. When I told him he could, he said, “You have a very European way of dressing. You have a lot of style.” Tired from the long day, but elated by the kind words, I was happy my choice was the right one and elicited such a positive response.

Black and Beige Throughout the Week:

   Start with a black dress as your canvas to play with throughout the week.  You can also use a black skirt, pants or longer knee-length shorts.

*Black dress + nude hose + two-toned black or black and beige flats + beige or beige and black striped cardigan.

*Black dress + black tights+ black mid-heeled pumps.

*White sweater set + black pants + black and white hounds tooth or pinstriped blazer + black oxfords.

* White button-down shirt or blouse +black skirt + black cardigan + black tights + white flats.

*Black short-sleeved shirt + black pants + white cardigan from sweater set + oxfords.

Dear Santa…My Christmas Fashion Wish List

Fashion Illustration by Victoria Moore

Dear Santa:

   I know you usually receive letters and Christmas lists from small children who want the latest toys, clothes and electronics, but I was hoping you’d make an exception in my case and consider my fashion wish list for 2020. Through my enclosed sketches and brainstorming tactics I hope my selections will charm and persuade you to make my Christmas a little more fashionable. For some strange reason I chose clothes and accessories reminiscent of American fashion designer Claire McCardell so my choices have a lovely feminine twist. My list includes:

  1. A striped dress with a mid-calf hem, long sleeves and a nipped waist, that can be belted with either a wide patent leather, corset or chain belt. To give it a modern twist I plan to wear it with ankle boots, men’s lace-up shoes, sneakers, a denim jacket and an easy-going hat.
  2. A blouse, with a large pussy bow, in a solid color or print. By combining this blouse with my jeans and khaki’s I feel it would give them a softness that’s both contemporary and romantic.
  3. A “colorful satin pleated evening skirt” which can be paired wonderfully with a pullover sweater or cardigan, evening clutch and pretty jeweled flats or mid-heels.
  4. Accessories: A red leather purse, striped tote and satin ballet flats. The reason I’d like these accessories is because they can add new life and freshness to my neutrals without overpowering them.

So I guess that’s it Santa…Thanks again and I appreciate your consideration and dedication during this holiday season. Merry Christmas and I hope you enjoy the cookies and milk I left you by the Christmas tree.

Sincerely Yours, 

Victoria Moore

Dressing Up and Feeling Better

Stark Tree Photo by Victoria Moore

  Sometimes when I have to go somewhere that either causes me a lot of stress or I’m feeling unsure of myself I dress up in something fun. Earlier this month, when I had to go to a doctor’s appointment I was very nervous and also having a very bad hair day, but I still wanted to look good and pulled together. Pink is my favorite color so I started building the outfit I was going to wear with a mauve hat I’d just bought at Goodwill Industries Thrift Store, then I selected my pink, black and white floral jacket, black and white Michael Kors shirt, beige corduroy Katayone Adeli skirt, white and gold ankle socks and the beige Guess G logo sneakers I’d just bought at Ross.

   I don’t remember now what inspired this look then but after thinking about it when I looked at the photos I took of myself in the mirror of the examining room at the hospital I believe I was inspired by a character in a book I was reading then called A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell. The woman’s name was Hanna Renstrom and she went through much of the story in a clueless haze that transformed her emotionally and psychologically. For some reason the mood of the story stuck with me as I coordinated this look because it matched my own at the time .

Tips On Building a Fun Outfit:

1) Start with your favorite color or pattern.

2) Decide on either an accessory or garment to start with (i.e., a hat, pin, dress, blouse or shirt)

3) Add other things that’re complimentary in style and color.

4) Try everything on in front of a full-length mirror and see if it work and is the look you’re going for.

How I Shop Now

Victoria Moore standing in front of “74th Street Elementary School”

WHERE I LOOK: “I’m not very wealthy, but I’m obsessed with looking good, so I shop at thrift stores that have consistently qualitative merchandise, off-price stores, chain stores and trendy shops. Even though I’ve been a regular at Ross for a long time now a little while ago I went to T.J. Maxx and found a really nice plastic chain necklace and a black pullover sweater by Cable and Gauge, so I’m thinking of becoming a regular there too.”

MAINTAINING A WARDROBE: “Over the years I’ve accumulated quite a bit from vintage clothes to second-hand finds and surplus store bargains so I have closets that’re bulging at the seams. When I get dressed to go out I usually coordinate something from my extensive selection that either tells a story or personifies how I feel at the moment.”

WHERE I SPLURGE: “Buying one thing that costs $20 is a luxury for me but if I really want something, and know I’ll get a lot of wear out of it, I’ll buy it. Recently I bought a black leather purse from http://www.amazon.com for about $70, a pair of Guess sneakers for $25.99 and a “Betsey” logo necklace for $24.99 from Ross so that was a splurge for me.”

Luxe Track Pants…A Journey

It often only takes one item to inspire you to take a fashion journey. For me it was a pair of luxe track pants.
My Fantastical Journey Illustration by Victoria Moore

While vintage clothes will always hold a special place in my heart, modern styles can be just as special when worn the right way. Anyone who’s ever taken a trip to the mall, or ridden the bus or subway, has seen examples of contemporary modes worn without regard for personal elan or decorum-leggings worn as pants and not layering items, pajamas and house shoes leaving the house without permission on unsuspecting owners, and short shorts replacing panties then paired with midriff tops to reveal flesh better well covered. To witness this type of “fashion” parade, on a daily basis, might make one become disheartened and push their own appearance to the back burner.

   In my job as a fashion/feature writer I’ve often been confronted with the dilemma of how to wear today’s trends with the class and elegance of yesteryear, but still remain comfortable. Due to the difficulty in finding reliable style icons who consistently wear things as beautifully as Audrey Hepburn or Cary Grant, the lack of sales help unless you go to the higher end stores, and the sky rocketing cost of clothing, I’m finding it harder to locate the styles I need to stay au courant without ending up in debt.

   My most recent clothing journey involved finding a pair of reasonably priced “luxe track pants with stripes down each side in contrasting colors”. I first fell in love with them when I saw them in a fashion layout in Vogue last year, then I saw them again on German fashion editor Veronika Heilbrunner in the Winter Escape 2016 issue of Porter magazine. Louche, subtle and edgy they spoke to me, and I knew I had to have them, but not at the prices featured in Porter.

Luxe track pants and red, white and blue boho dress 

   I went online and looked them up on amazon.com, zara.com, target.com, and other stores like H&M, T.J. Maxx, Macy’s and Forever 21.The closest I came to finding them was a pair of Mossimo’s for around $20 at the Southgate Target store. Unfazed I knew I was going to be at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza the next day when I took my mother to see Rogue One for her birthday at the Rave movie theater. They have a Forever 21 in the mall, so after making two trips, one before the movie started and one after it ended, I found a pair in the p.j./lounge wear section for $15.90!

    Jubilant, and vindicated once again despite our challenging fashion scene, I put them with my other Christmas gifts, and relaxed with a cup of tea and the current book I’m reading, Michael Connelly’s The Crossing. With 2017 coming up, and a whole new year of things to do, after my success with finding these pants I can add more adventures to my calendar knowing they’ll yield good finds.