Month: December 2008

thrift star yearbook: most likely to retain freshness

Have you noticed? Fashion just keeps getting faster and faster. Now that a pre-teen in Flint can so easily scope the latest in Singaporean street styles, the speed at which fashion changes seems directly related to the size of the swelling fashion blogosphere.

Painfully Hip is quickly approaching toddlerdom (our 2nd birthday is in about 2 months) and it really is amazing how much winter style has changed in such a short time. Even a lot of photos I chose last December look a tad dated to me. So here are some year-old favorites which actually have a shelf-life and still look pretty hip to me. Perhaps even painfully so.

(click on photos to check out original post and links to flickr pages)

Winter 2007

sherbet tone

haring leggings

ankle boots


cosby sweater


blue boots


TVS jeans

One of my new years resolutions is to take my own advice to re-assess and maximize my wardrobe and perhaps finally start my own style journal (thanks, Diana!).

I don’t know about you guys, but I am most definitely looking forward to 2009. 2008 was like a scary rollercoaster – high highs, low lows, got my blood pumping, and boy am I’m glad its over. Happy to be alive, I’m going to spend the rest of the year scoping dolphins from a beach house in Santa Cruz and keeping my fingers crossed that the heat-seeking lightning bolt that is 2008 misses me one last time. On that note…


check me out: my first walk-in

The best thing about my new apartment is my new closet! I’ve never had a walk-in before and I don’t think I could do without one ever again.

walk-in closet
Naik Fur spiral knit cloche (as featured in my winter fashion article) – xmas gift, YAY!
cropped vest – Target clearance years ago, $2
silk rose print tank – thrifted in Chicago, $2
skinny jeans with zippered ankles – F21, $13
turquoise ankle socks – xmas gift
brown spectators (MINT) – thrifted in Chicago, $3

Screw a dresser. Hanging all your clothes is the only way to go… It’s so much easier to come up with new outfits when you can easily see everything at once! I adore unexpected color combinations and accessories as an accent to an otherwise neutral outfit. I wore this dancing on 60’s Soul Night.

Congrats to my friends Jamaica and Lyndsay, who threw the perfect party last night to end a great year of a virtual fashion renaissance for Sacramento. I had a blast modeling for Sapphire Cordial. Good job, girls.

Upcoming: My goal for 2009 is to make it one big list of Firsts, including my first VLOG, when I go on a shoe shopping spree at Marshall’s. Yeah, you’re totally as excited as I am.


thrift star of the day: buttons’ got nothing on this

plaid coat
originally uploaded by marcinéma

Ever since my brother-in-law scored a pristine plaid mohair cardigan at Goodwill, I’ve been itching to get my arms into a coat just like this.
mohair coat

I imagine walking around in this outfit would garner lots of cheek-pinches from one’s elders.

Don’t Be a Frumpy, Frigid Fashion Shut-in: Savvy Style Advice for Nearly Nuclear Winters

Happy Xmas to the League of the Painfully Hip!

I have been incredibly humbled by the excess of love bestowed on Painfully Hip by you and by local publications, so imagine the thrill I enjoyed when the News and Review asked me to oversee the writing and styling of an entire winter fashion article!

How do I feel? I’m in print! Legit would be a good word for it. I’m totally legit now and here are some dark, blurry behind-the-scenes photos to prove it:

I was giddy as hell to be allowed to devise outfits from a huge pile of amazing designer clothes and flashy vintage accessories. I was really lucky to have such talent at my disposal.

Anyway, here’s the final result:

Don’t be a frumpy, frigid fashion shut-in
Savvy style advice for nearly nuclear winters

By Amber Mortensen

Winter in Sacramento has its own bleak aesthetic: cold, naked, grim. But don’t let that influence what you wear.

The chilly season is neither long nor frigid enough to phone it in when getting dressed. Warm clothes don’t have to be synonymous with frumpy coats or mass-produced sweaters; dressing up should be about putting a sway in your swagger and making a tedious, chilly day more stimulating.

Conveniently, local designers Jamaica Cole, Lindsay Campbell, and sisters Laura and Becky Carter are at your disposal. These artists not only provided the styles for SN&R’s winter fashion shoot (see photo, right), but they also can help slough off a few winter humbugs with the fashionable fruits of their labor.

All four designers will be part of a seasonal fashion showcase, Church of Satin’s Nostos Algos, on December 28, in Midtown. Expect lively creations, like embroidered corduroy jumpers and print tops from Campbell, quirky organic-cotton cigarette pants from the Carters and Cole’s collection of fanciful frocks inspired by the brothers Grimm. You’d have to be Scrooge himself to not be cheered by such spectacles, so imagine the glow you’ll feel when you take their advice and start dressing like you mean it.

Sure, the economy is cockamamie, corporations are evil and the environment’s screwed. But this isn’t the apocalypse. Try harder. Keep reading.

Remember: Winter days seem short, but they’re still 24-hours long.

Any fashion addict will agree that the genius of dressing for the cold is that you can wear more clothes, smashing summer’s styling possibilities out of the park. That said, please bear in mind: A well-considered ensemble is greater than the sum of its parts. Confused?

Campbell, designer of fashion line Linden Simone, can help. She understands separates, and while you might have a difficult time choosing just a few pieces from Campbell’s prolific collection, her combinations work: asymmetrical, ’60s-inspired coats; chic, high-waisted skirts; ruffled blouses composed of quaint vintage fabrics. Why clutch onto that soulless parka of yesteryear when you could knock off socks with something like Campbell’s colorful, intricate bouclé cape with contrast stitching? Or her flattering tweed, three-quarter-sleeved coat with peacoat buttons and ruffled Peter Pan collar?

That’s right: Never underestimate the power of layering.

Do as your grandparents did during the Depression: Reuse, buy vintage, don layers and wool, put a feather in your cap, be creative with your dough.

Keep warm with luxurious, breathable fabrics and soft, chunky weaves. Grab an impish knit cloche (perhaps by the peerless Amy Hemmens of Naik Fur) and a flattering, classic coat, then hit the streets.

The coat is, of course, the most visible winter garment, so consider an organic wool confection with blithe details, like oversized buttons and a funnel collar, from Velvet Leaf. Velvet Leaf’s Laura and Becky use only certified organic wool, silk and cotton, and each piece is flawlessly finished with unadulterated skill to boot. Even more, their promise to use only sustainable, eco-conscious, fair-trade fabrics makes for guilt-free shopping.

Check out Velvet Leaf’s brand-spanking-new Midtown store and their handpicked selection of on-trend vintage.

Take a hint.

Is it possible to still be inspired in spite of the grim global forecast?

Yes. And let designer Jamaica Cole, of Sapphire Cordial, be your muse. Cole’s influences vary from nature and architecture to dark Grimms’ Fairy Tales illustrations. Her current collection is titled “Briars”; she describes the motif as “Rapunzel’s prince falling into the briars and having his eyes scratched out by thorns.”

As provocative as that sounds, Cole’s line is actually alluring and quite feminine, embellished only with a touch of the macabre. She rarely uses patterns and finds that her favorite pieces are born of happy accidents. One such beloved design is a palatial three-quarter-sleeved coat with lux flourishes, like vintage doilies on each sleeve.

During the photo shoot, Cole beamed when we merged said couture jacket with Velvet Leaf’s high-waisted boyfriend jeans, made with organic denim; Campbell’s ruffled print top; and a decorative vintage belt. It seems that Cole’s goal is to have the fashion-minded looking forward each year to January wind’s familiar bite—until, of course, the polar ice caps dissolve and winter is no longer.

But, hopefully, that’s a long way away. Until then, make every day count: Lift frozen spirits by wearing what you love, not trends as dictated by the seasons, glossy magazines or, god forbid, propriety. Got it? If not …

Suck it up.

This winter’s not so bad. Go ahead, wear white after Labor Day or purple suede ankle boots on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon if it helps clear the cobwebs. There are enough rules in the world; there’s no need to feel stifled when choosing an outfit on a frigid morning.

Now’s the season to boycott archaic fashion-industry notions of monochromatic, dark shades and colors. Bring it on with bijou declarations: purple, teal, crimson and rust. While you’re at it, why not throw that default polar fleece and Uggs combo to the moths this year?

Although a lovingly hatched, locally designed, certifiably sweatshop-free outfit may not have the power to change the world, it’s fully within the realm of possibilities that it could, at the very least, make your day. So …

Shop for handmade fashions by local designers.

Buying locally from Sacramento boutiques like Atelier (1617 16th Street) is one of the best ways to help your city’s economy: It is good for the environment, shuns corporations that use exploitative labor and supports local designers. But more importantly, nobody knows Sacramento winter-survival skills better than Sacramentans themselves. Atelier is a co-op where local artists sell handmade and vintage togs, and 15 different designers’ works can be found there. So by shopping at Atelier, you’re supporting Sacramento’s budding fashion scene while scoring one-of-a-kind wares—for an average price of about $25. After that, pop into independently owned Bows and Arrows (1712 L Street) for some vintage statement accessories like decorative belts, ankle boots and chunky jewels, and you’ll be all set for a celebratory winter.

The north wind may be blowing, but you’re precisely as hot as you feel.

winter fashion 2008

Clockwise from top left:
On Alice Irwin: bouclé cape by Linden Simone, purple Jamie dress by Velvet Leaf, black knit cloche by Naik Fur.

On Cheri Clark: vintage ankle boots from Velvet Leaf, black ruffle sweater and lace jumper by Sapphire Cordial, cream knit cloche by Naik Fur.
On Jillian Oliver: Emelie dress by Velvet Leaf, coat by Linden Simone, red knit cloche by Naik Fur.
On Liz Liles: three-quarter-sleeved coat by Sapphire Cordial, print top by Linden Simone, high-waisted boyfriend jeans by Velvet Leaf, cream knit hat by Naik Fur.

Check out designers Laura and Becky Carter’s new store, Velvet Leaf, online and at 1115 H Street.

Shoes and accessories are vintage.
Hair and makeup by Ariana Garcia and Tessa Matsis of Strands Salon and Spa (3271 Folsom Boulevard).

Styling by Amber Mortensen


Special thanks to Lindsay Hoff and Rory Toolan (who gave me one of these amazing Naik Fur cloches for Xmas! Glee!)

Lovely Jamaica of Sapphire Cordial is letting me model her confections at this show which you REALLY mustn’t miss:

Nostos Algos Church of Satin Winter Fashion Showcase, featuring designers Velvet Leaf, Ingrid Fur, Sapphire Cordial, Linden Simone, Van der Neer; musicians Dusty Brown, Sister Crayon, DJ Shaun Slaughter; and host Steve Vanoni. Sunday, December 28, 7:30 p.m., at California Stage, 2509 R Street; $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Tickets available at Atelier and Bows and Arrows.

when life attacks: 2008 tries to kill me

Major hard drive failure.
…and life pulls the rug out from under me just as I thought I was going to make it out of this schizo year fairly unscathed.
It could have been worse – I only lost 6 weeks and 10 projects. So I’m counting blessings.

I’ll try to post when I can, but I’ll be back with a vengeance the minute the Apple Store doods in the busiest mall in town can stop selling iPhones for long enough to revive my lifeblood.
Great timing, right?

Until then?
Coat yourselves in tinsel and call yourselves hip.

And check back on Christmas day when I’ll post my first legit article for SN&R!

UPDATE: Took it to the Apple Store and an Apple Genius revived my doomed hard drive from the dead! Its a Christmas Miracle! 😀

thrift star of the day: olla olla olla

olla olla olla
originally uploaded by ollaollaolla for wardrobe_remix

This is my dear friend Olla. I haven’t see her for a while, but BOY HOWDY. She is sultry, squared in this demure, self-made frock. I expect that any second she’s about to break out in a Marilyn-shaming shimmy, leaving a legion of dizzy, swooning men in her wake.

Yowza. Apparently, it’s been brought.

thrift star of the day: dance, dance, dance

pastel sweater dress
originally uploaded by Fluff Fox for wardrobe_remix

This dress is so ready to party, its possible that Fluff Fox lost her control over its beruffled impulses.

thrift star of the day: guhhh…

originally uploaded by amytwin for wardrobe_remix

That coat is dissolving my brain.

Or perhaps what’s making me loopy is the fact that I’ve been writing an article for the peerless SN&R, who gave me my very first actual news article, and none of this bull where I go “this is awesome” for 3 sentences and say bullocks to grammar, an actual 800 word report on winter fashion and local designers… then yesterday I had carte blanche on the styling and art direction of an entire full color photoshoot with hair and makeup of my imagining, featuring said designers of my choosing, and four gorgeous models of my dressing – mixing and matching pieces from three AMAZING collections…

Yes, this coat is face-meltingly cute, but I think after yesterday nothing will ever thrill me quite the same way again.

I get published on Christmas day. Pretty sweet to have this dream ticked off the list.

mommie dearest: perfection is creepy

I’ve been meaning to post these amazing photos by Sofia Sanchez & Mauro Mongiello for a few weeks. So creepy in such a non-specific way. Something about the saccharine colors combined with Hitchcock-esque lighting and overly stationary blonde curls. They also kinda bring to mind an irritating habit of Hollywood lately – young’un as accessory… and also these unsettling airbrushed Baby Pageant photos. Maybe it’s the interspersed ventriloquist dummie that’s heightening that mood for me.

Gorgeous anyway. Model Siri Tollerod was the perfect choice, she exudes “militaristic perfectionist,” well, perfectly. I think I need some Pepto-Pink lipstick.

stuffed animals

top hat









source: foto decadent

never underestimate the magical powers of a style journal

i’ve been clipping photos, articles and entire editorials that i find inspiring for ages.  i’m pretty sure i’m not the only one who does this.  it’s great to have a collection of inspiring imagery on hand – my big problem though, was always how to store them in a usable way.  once things got tossed in the “idea box,” very rarely did they see the light of day again.

i meant to start a “style journal” for quite a few years – one which i updated regularly and used as a reference tool.  i’d started a few, but never really showed any follow-through until recently, while stuck in bed with the flu, i forced myself to tackle the project like i meant it.

i’m not even going to tell you how many days it took me to get through the whole stash.  i will say however, that it was worth it.  i feel excitement for my closet where there was only waning interest before.  what’s even better is that i feel a little more direct in my enthusiasm.  and anything that manages to accomplish the impossible task of drumming up some closet glee in the midst of the mid-season doldrums is a magical, magical thing in my books.  



the amazing thing about keeping your own style journal, is that unlike wardrobe_remix or the multitude of other fabulous “daily style” photo sharing sites, your journal is for your eyes only.  (unless you want to share.)  it’s private.  it’s not an end product, but a tool to create the end product.  you don’t have to worry about presentation – it gives you a rare opportunity to really analyze what grabs you, and play around with things you might be intrigued by but not quite sure how to try.  

daily “what i wore” sites, street style sites and personal blogs offer endless inspiration, but unless you’re one of the lucky few with a strong foundation, it can be easy to become distracted – and overwhelmed – by all the shiny pretty things.  (i do not at all mean to imply that fantastic personal style is unattainable to all but a lucky few.  what i am saying is that a little under-cover work is really all you need to take your style to a level that you feel best expresses who you are.  that’s the whole point of style, right?)

this is how a style journal helps.  it’s a foundation you build to support your needs. it’s a fantastic go-to source of immediate style inspiration, catered specifically to your preferences.  it’s a reference point to remind you of what you are striving for on days when you feel less than inspired.  it’s actually (i’ve decided) a pretty awesome thing to have around.



still not convinced?  that’s ok.  i’ve got more.


  • putting it all in one place and being aware of your preferences will help you start to see what works for you, and what doesn’t.  most of the time we’re attracted to styles that work with our personality and body type, and having a collection of options at your fingertips will remind you of how many choices you really do have.  
  • knowing what works for you – and what you like – will keep you from being blindly pulled from one trend to the next, and help you develop your closet into a well-thought out and coordinating collection of pieces that work for you and work together.  (just think about that for a minute…)
  • keeping a style journal will help you become a more efficient and conscientious consumer – which saves both money and the environment.  it will help you know what you are looking for when you are buying, which really – when you think about it – seems like a silly thing to even need to mention.  we don’t wander blindly through a car lots, test driving random vehicles that strike our fancy.  very rarely do we even wander into a grocery store without some sort of shopping list to remind us of what we need.  wardrobe investments should be no different.  
  •  a style journal gives you a tool to help better understand yourself, which in turn allows you to present yourself in a more thought-out and complete way.  what happens then?  people take you more seriously and treat you with more respect.  the way you present yourself is how the world sees you, and if you appear confidant and organized, the world will respond accordingly.  


the way you decide to keep your style journal is entirely up to you.  i’ve found it extremely helpful to make notes in mine as i go along, but i know some people also like to keep theirs as a picture-only sort of log.  a lot of times i will have a “style epiphany” when i’m looking at a picture, and my geeky self likes to keep a log of these things.  the margins of my notebook are packed with things like “oh!  i totally get why this outfit works, while a similar one i tried was a total flop…”  or “this would look even better paired with —”  i’ll even push the geek envelope one step further, by jotting down phrases, styles and eras that come to mind when i look at a picture that really inspires me.  as silly as that sounds, it serves a purpose – it helps me see a common thread between previously (seemingly) unrelated images.

it goes without saying, but style is a life-encompassing word.  your personal style is not limited to just your clothing choices, and any positive change you make in one area is going to affect other aspects of your life as well.  as you get to know your likes and dislikes a little better, its fun to branch out into other areas of personal style (art preferences, home decor, etc.) and see where those take you as well.  it’s all interconnected – have fun with it!