Where in Time is Jamaica Cole?

Homeless, aimless and unemployed, I appear to be in gypsy mode once again. But that doesn’t mean I’m going go overboard with baubles (overbauble?) and dress like a schizophrenic costume shop refugee a like I did in 2009. This time I’m taking the high road (well, only clothing-wise. The low road has WAY better bars).

For the past six months or so, I’ve cooled it with my accessory obsession (obsessory? accession?) (sorry) (not sorry) and stuck to a look comprised mostly of dresses and shoes. There is a get-up-and-go simplicity about it, and it’s given me the opportunity to downsize my wardrobe into a travel-friendly two-bag affair. However, I seem to have only collected a variety of short floral dresses and cowboy boots and now I look like I’m wearing a Jamaica costume.

Something must be done, lest I end up an action figure. I can see it now: a displeased plastic frown from juggling my miniature suitcases while trying to find my tiny boarding pass. My haircut comes pre-experimented on by little kid scissors, and if you look in my luggage, there are seven more outfits exactly like the one I’m wearing.

I have approximately one more month in Tucson before I’m truly floating in the wind. Now is the time for reinvention! So stylistically, I’ve decided to embrace the vagabond life in a Kathleen-Turner-in Body-Heat homage to the 1930’s via the 1980’s.

Confused? Good. So am I.

Whilst thrifting in Flagstaff, AZ with my mom, I came across this pattern:

The masculine/feminine silhouette balance and the monochrome simplicity made me weak at the knees, and better yet, this (view B) is one of those easily thriftable looks. A pair of high rise pleated pants can be easily made into shorts with minimal sewing skills. Just cut a couple of inches longer than intended, then roll up, tack down and press. Wear with a brown belt over a simple silk tank and then throw on one of those ubiquitous oversized white button downs and roll up the sleeves. Top with a wide brimmed hat or a pair of big earrings, adopt a breathy voice, and you’ll win/break the heart of almost every character ever portrayed by Michael Douglas.

Want to embody a modern, monochrome Carmen Sandiego, but avoid the Polly Esther Fabrique? If you’re not me, you could try the actual high road and achieve this look with new clothes!

above photos via fashion gone rogue

And if you want to get just crazy high on the high road (at least as far as scoring points with yours truly is concerned), be sure to check out what may very well be my last Tucson fashion show on July 20th. The theme of the night is “future primitive”, and even though I appear to be doing “vintage modern”, I’m sure I can rationalize it all somehow. In keeping with my current approach toward life in general, the best plan is…no plan?

I wonder how I’ll manage to pull this one off.

Time of the Chiffon for Loving

CHIFFON! I cannot get enough of you.

Whispery caresses of late spring breezes and glimpses of maybe-I-wanted-you-to-see-my-lingerie or maybe-I’m-innocently-oblivious gauziness have me feeling carefree and roadtrip-ready (more on that later). This is a fabric of slow glances, of underwater grace, of all those chillwave bands from 2010 that you still listen to constantly.

Chiffon has been too long typecast as sexy sleepwear, curtain panels, and over-layers on formal dresses. Sure, it works well in those mediums, but chiffon deserves a chance to really prove itself. Just think: what if Adam Sandler had never made Punch-Drunk Love? What if Arnold Schwarzenegger had never made Twins? This is bigger than you and me. This is about breaking out of your mold! Achieving your potential! Its time to let your true colors shine through, literally. And while you’re at it, why not let that gorgeous bralette you only wear on third dates see the light of day?


My current chiffascination began early this spring as Tucson began to heat up. The temperature hit 100 degrees in April and there was nowhere to go but inside. Of course, the only way to combat an onslaught of sun rays is to wear as little as possible, but when your work inexplicably has a deadly no air conditioning/no sleeveless shirts rule combo, what’s a girl to do? Why, take advantage of a certain dresscode loophole that fails to specify that sheer clothing may not be food-service apropos, of course!

In the way that California’s outlaw of cellphone car conversations overlooked the act of texting for six months and resulted in overly-distracted drivers, my employer’s overlooking of sheer fabrics has resulted in overly-distracted customers. Imagine a gaggle of twenty-something cashiers clad more or less like this:

And then imagine a clientele of lecherous older men with a false sense of entitlement. Endless adventures in objectification! (You can keep your “maybe you should stop dressing like that” comments to yourself, boys, lest you sound rapey. Sweat stains on t-shirts don’t make for great tips.)

But I digress.

CHIFFON! O, fabric of the heavens! Cover me (kind of) with your gossamer mist!
How to wear? Take a hint from Gucci and pair a chiffon maxi skirt with super short shorts:

Or do as I do and dress down long chiffon blouses with denim cut-offs and sandals.
Either way, a windswept prairie or beach makes a great backdrop, but doesn’t it always?

(photos via fashiongonerogue)

Hello, summer. We’ve missed you.

Painfully Hip: Boys of Summer

leather harness vest
suspender swimsuit
leather shorts, silk top
silk top closeup
suspender bikini
tweed trousers
rachel yampolsky FORD
rachel yampolsky FORD

Boys of Summer
The Cool Factor in Menswear Detailing
Published by Zocalo Magazine, July 2011
By Amber Mortensen, PainfullyHip.com

Tucson isn’t a town that typically embraces streotypical gender rolls. We have a heavily attended Pride Weekend, burlesque drag troupes (Boys R Us, Wingspan) and last month hosted the Gender Identity Project. While I’m not suggesting you take up cross-dressing at the office, I do highly endorse a smattering of menswear detailing this season.
Trousers of all orientations, wide-brimmed grandpa hats, wingtip shoes, suspenders, and bow ties are the necessary means to rock this trend. Celebrate diversity by cinching a summery frock with a thick leather men’s belt and a pair of oxfords. Feminize those wide leg tweed trousers with a lacey lingerie top. Try tailored men’s shorts as a bikini cover up. Tuck an androgynous silk shirt into a pair of hot shorts. Like most things in life, it’s all about balance.

Photos by Krysta Jabzenski (Don’t miss her exhibit at the newly renovated Café Passe on 4th Ave)
Style and Art Direction by Amber Mortensen
Hair by Stefani Annaliese at Toni & Guy
Makeup by Tony Tulve
Model – Rachel Yampolsky (FORD RBA)
Special Thanks to Abraham Cooper
Clothing from Pour Moi Boutique (1865 E River Rd #141, and Preen Vintage (210 S 4th Ave)
Swimsuit from Rockin’ Queen

Ooh Daddy! Sweet Shades of Glory!

And now, if you’ll allow me, I must talk about my new Ray-Bans.

Rayban Yellow Tortoiseshell
Sale Price $96.75

Aren’t they just made of butterscotch?? Well, velvet smooth (seemingly unbreakable) plastic and tortoiseshell. Somehow both timeless and shamelessly modern.
Never before have I allowed my eyewear-abusing-self such quality, but the nice folks at ShadesDaddy somehow knew that I’d misplaced my $6 sunnies with a premature desert summer and an imminent move to Hawaii encroaching. From now on, I am a reformed sunglass-loser/abuser. My new mantra: “On my face or in the case! If you lose these, Amber, you deserve a firm noogying.” Try it! It’s catchy.

Sunglasses also come in handy for sneaking sideways glances at things you’re not supposed to.

And look! They even look good on future supermodels!

Color me in love.

Photos by Jon Saupe and Abraham Cooper
Model is Rachel Ann Yampolsky (Good Luck at FORD, hun! You’re a shoo-in.)

There is also a super cute collection of sunglasses to be found at www.very.co.uk. Go ahead, check ‘em out.

Spectacles online from Glasses on Spec


PHDC: Fire Warning! Summer Trends Adapted for the Desert (or just …reality)

I can say without a doubt that the following shoot was the most death defying to date… and that’s including the time we shot in a haunted antiques warehouse in the bowels of the most crime-ridden neighborhood in Oakland!
After we were forced to abandon our original plan of shooting on top of nearby Mount Lemmon because of severe fire conditions (didn’t think it would be cool to be running a smoke machine up there – we prefer to prevent mass hysteria when possible), we drove wayyyy out into the desert in search of a few trees.
Following several miles of meandering dirt roads we came upon this ominous cracked crater of a pond bed surrounded by sparse mesquite trees in the middle of a known smuggling corridor and thought, “Well it’s no forest, but it’ll do.” Amongst the storm of gunshots we kept hearing with disturbing consistency, this location afforded some pretty amazing captures. David Olsen, the editor of Zocalo, seemed to like it too, he made the first one the cover shot for the June issue! Worth it? You tell me…

summer 2011 trends
summer 2011 trends
summer 2011 trends
summer trends 2011
summer trends 2011
harem pants 2011
harem pants 2011
summer 2011 trend editorial

Fire Warning:
Summer’s Hottest Trends, Adapted for Life in the Desert
By Amber Mortensen, Painfully Hip

Photos by Ryan Mihalyi
Wardrobe Styling and Art Direction by Amber Mortensen and Bradley Rhea
Hair by Raul Mendoza at Fringe Salon (4861 E Grant Rd #111)
Model: Jessaca Marie Haag
Special thanks to Abraham Cooper and Jonathan Saupe

It’s June in the desert. The sun is relentless, cicadas are celebrating, and temperatures are rising, but what’s this? Hemlines are descending, modesty is rampant, and …black is the new black? Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but pretty much every trend you’ve come to associate with summer (sundresses, shorts, mini skirts, color, color, and more color) have been sent to trial by fire this year. So how do Tucsonans keep cool when fashion publications are telling us that long sleeves, trousers, ankle length hemlines, and black are haute stuff this season? Anything loose and floaty has risen to the top of my wish list. Especially chiffon, the textile equivalent of whipped cream. It’s cool, breathable, and just plain sumptuous. American Apparel (988 E University Ave) offers loads of the stuff. Maxi skirts, cropped blouses, long-sleeved button-ups and even pants in delicious sheer chiffon.
As far as these allegedly low hemlines go, skirts are especially versatile this season. I recommend the high-waisted variety, paired with a fluttery, cropped top or a fitted tank. I love a billowy maxi skirt as a swimsuit cover-up (as seen at the TYP/TFG runway show last month at the Fox Theater), but really anything below the knee is hip for summer. Just don’t forget to add an airy pair of gypsy-esque trousers to your closet while you’re at it.
Black is in, but so is nude. Now with this list of trends, it would be understandable to just decide to translated this to streaking, but first let me explain. Nudity (as far as I know), is still illegal in downtown Tucson, but anything wearable from light peach to pinky beige to tan is so hot, it’s barely legal. All the way down to your toe nail polish, nude is the new black, at least for us desert-dwellers.
And of course there is always room for color on my spectrum, especially for accessories like skinny leather belts and hats. Mindlessly pairing saturated blues, greens, purples and turquoise with your nude, black and otherwise neutral separates will make you appear as though you’ve got this color-blocking trend on lockdown. The point however, is to take whatever trends you’re into this season and make them your own somehow. That’s something we Tucsonans are best at.


Couldn’t resist including this hotness in conclusion (Abraham was the best fog wrangler in tarnation):
fog machine operator

Painfully Hip Does Iceland – Slideshow and Video!

Painfully Hip Does Iceland
icelandic fashion

Travel to Iceland! In my world, layers are unnecessary!
Enjoy. Fullscreen please!

And here is a video! The finale is cut off, but hopefully I’ll have full documentation soon. Enjoy!

icelandic fashion
reykjavik fashion
vintage 60s dress runway

Painfully Hip Does Iceland

No… I’m not actually back in Reykjavik. It’s pushing 100 here but it kinda feels like I am since I’ve been marinating in Icelandic inspiration for weeks preparing for my fashion show. It’s all finally happening this Friday at the historic Fox Theater in Tucson!

Funny to think I would even attempt to capture the grandeur of Iceland by putting pretty clothes on pretty people, but the venue and the music should help!
Never underestimate the power of Art Deco and Sigur Ros.

You’re invited. See you there!

2010: The Year of the Maillot

It’s been decided. I’ve found 3 of my most favorite (and most comfortable) swimsuits to date in the last few months. So I took it as a sign that I should go ahead and spend one month this Autumn on the island of Oahu, land of coconut breezes, misty rainforests, overpriced milk, and my favorite gay couple. So I’ll definitely be putting my swimsuits (here is the first) to great use, since lounging on the beach eating stolen coconuts with Bradley will be all I can afford to do.

tribal print monokini deep v swimsuit
Deep V Monokini, Kmart – $39.99

I am beginning to be mildly over the tribal print trend, but it’ll be totally be a go in swimwear for at least the rest of the year. Perhaps the colors are a little, “Body Glove SS1994″ but I’m having this total mid-90s throwback phase right now and I think I like it. This monokini can give me an awkward tanline anytime. It fits well, stays put, and, get this: you don’t have to peel the whole thing off when you need to pee!

Stay tuned for one last swimwear post!

Painfully Hip 2011: Spring / Summer Trend Editorial

If you know me, you know how exciting it was for me to put thrift store clothes and seconds-from-the-grave candy apple platforms on a recent Harper’s BAZAAR cover model. Have you ever felt preemptively intimidated by a 16 year old before?
Yeeeah, I mean …me neither

I could also mention that this editorial was thrown together in less than 24 hours, but I won’t. The inspirations ranged from “punk” and “tomboy” to “feminine 1940s-60s silhouettes,” with sources from American Apparel to St. Vincent de Paul… all with a decidedly juicy color pallette. Our team was perfection and we had a blast.

spring 2011 vintage trends

spring summer 2011 vintage trends

spring 2011 vintage trends

spring 2011 vintage trend

spring summer vintage trends 2011

spring summer 2011 vintage trends

spring 2011 vintage trends

Jeanne Johnston model spring 2011 vintage trend american apparel crinoline petticoat

Photos by Matthew Priestley
Written and styled by Amber Mortensen, Painfully Hip
Model- Jeanne Johnston, FORD
MUA – Lizzy Marsh
Hair – Amy Freudenberg

Special Thanks to Abraham Cooper, Jasmine Jarrett and Matt Wade at American Apparel, Tucson.

Painfully Hip in My Hipsters: Swimwear Season?

This post brought to you by Express. All opinions are 100% mine.

This time I’m just going to skip my obligatory “not sorry I live in the desert” disclaimer and just go ahead and say it. “I’m thinking about swim suits!  

Ooh, that felt nice. 

Just as that whimsical sentence entered my brain, I got an email from the folks at Express that included a link to their women’s swimwear section. To check out my new suit and find out how to win a $200 Express Gift Card, read on! Continue reading Painfully Hip in My Hipsters: Swimwear Season?