My last few Thursday nights have been marked by a distinct lack of sleep. But Mama’s gotta work; wearing this Madewell Breton stripe tee (which is super comfortable – it basically feels like pajamas) is as close as I could get to staying in bed. How to dress up such a casual-vibe top without completely scrapping the comfort factor?
I wore the outfits below on two consecutive Fridays to play with the styling a bit:
And how’s here I added some spit and polish:
The blazer was key to smartening up both of these looks; its touch of stretch kept it from feeling too confining or stiff.
How I dressed it up in the first photo: the “cigarette” pants are in a slim cut and a neutral hue. The necklace (closeup photo below) lends a little gravitas – it’s a focal point with some character. And my cuff bracelet makes the whole thing look “finished.”
How I dressed it up in the second: the tucked shirt and skinny belt give a pulled-together look. While the sunglasses-as-headband look definitely reads “beach” in parts of the country, they are my first well-made, non-scavenged pair and they made me feel more dressy. (More on these in a later post.)
Admittedly the floral sneakers round this down to the casual end of “business casual.” If I really wanted to dress up, I would’ve combined all the polished elements listed above into one outfit (grey pants, tucked/belted tee, statement necklace, cuff bracelet) and skipped straight to my bronze wedges:
But the combos above passed muster for Casual Friday in my office and prevented me from feeling like a slob even though I *did* feel like going back to sleep.
Do you have any tricks for dressing up t-shirts? Or for masquerading pj-level comfy outfits as workwear? Scroll down to share!
In Part 1 we pregamed; in Part 2 we went thrifting. Today Part 3 is all about inspiration to get those style juices flowing. These women are the experts I mentioned back in Part 1 – some in thrifting, some in retail, but all in style. (May I note for all you spring chickens out there: I regularly read several of these and the style inspiration therein is in no way limited by age – so click through and read what speaks to you!) Scroll down to share your favorites, that we all may benefit.
These first three are all Canadians who know (and link to) each other. Please help me expand and diversify my list of thrift blogs by older women!
Fellow Atlantan Rhoda has a regular feature on her Southern Hospitality blog about stylish finds for those over 50 which often features thrifted pieces:
On Instagram, Darlene Fadem of Las Vegas:
A Colourful Canvas
Non-thrift Style blogs
Note: there’s a lot of emphasis on blogs like Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style, Saramaijewels (Instagram), or Judith Boyd’s Style Crone where the looks are fabulously larger than life. I dig those looks both for their sheer boldness and the styles themselves, but if you’re reading my blog chances are you’re not going to wear opera gloves or turbans in your daily looks. (Correct me if I’m wrong!) So in this list I tried to aim for women who had more relatable, down-to-earth style.
Last but not least, an edit – I’m adding on a blog that isn’t focused on the author’s personal style, but IS geared toward this audience and teaches you how to pair colors and silhouettes to create a wardrobe of stylish things that work together (which is, after all, my own wardrobe goal!):
Thanks Jill B. for catching this oversight!
What are your favorite style/thrift blogs written by/for older women? Scroll down to comment!
We went to the Raleigh/Durham area a few weekends ago for a friend’s wedding. It was a long weekend involving everything from a wiffle ball tournament at beautiful Umstead State Park (complete with Yogi Berra/Abraham Lincoln custom-made t-shirts) to, obviously, a wedding, at the lovely and delicious Caffé Luna. The rehearsal dinner was at Sitti – tasty Lebanese food. We also ate at Lilly’s pizza (good beer, pizza was fine but I think I’d pick a different flavor next time) and at Elmo’s Diner for brunch where the huevos rancheros hit the spot. The locals love Elmo’s so the lines were long but moved quickly.
Here’s what I wore:
Yes this is a Goodwill dressing room – I continue to be unimpressed with North Carolina Goodwills in terms of cleanliness (my legs are hiding a Bojangles cup and other trash someone left in there) and selection – I think I took maybe one picture of a so-so find. But maybe I’m just spoiled by the Goodwill of North Georgia?
How did my wardrobe work? Turns out, not that well! I broke my own rule for creating travel wardrobes and forgot to check the weather. Well – I did check the weather, but I did so two days out, and by the time we were ready to leave the forecast had taken a major dip temp-wise and rain was predicted for two of the days (thankfully not the day of the wiffle ball tourney). So I was pretty darn wet and cold for a portion of the weekend.
[Full thrift disclosure: you may recognize that as a dress I’d marked for giveaway oh…almost two years ago! But I just couldn’t part with it – I love the colors and the bodice and the fuller skirt is a nice summery addition to my army of sheath dresses. I have since stuck it in my “festive occasions” wardrobe (I just made up that term…) and it’s been worn for Easter twice and, as you now know, it’s on my wedding attire roster.]
Also also, I should have had the foresight to realize that my preschool-aged flower girl would want me to walk with her down the aisle and opted for a jacket/blazer in a more formal fabric than white denim. I don’t think it ruined anyone’s wedding (especially since the groomsmen – and my kid! – were wearing Chuck Taylor’s), but I would’ve felt a little dressier.
Live and learn, friends, live and learn.
What do you think of my travel wardrobe? Have you been to Raleigh/Durham? If so, what do you recommend for the next time we head that way?
In Part 1 we talked about what to do before you thrift to increase your chances of success – and to make it an enjoyable experience! Now it’s time for the The Main Event – finding great clothes at the thrift store.
- Concern yourself first and foremost with quality. Nothing makes me sadder than grown women (of any age) wearing shoddy, shlumpy stuff when there’s great, affordable stuff to be found secondhand!
A big benefit of shopping pre-owned clothes is getting to see whether clothes have worn well or are starting to show their poor construction. Avoid pilling, holes, snags, flimsy/super wrinkly fabric, and items that look misshapen on the hanger (particularly blazers, where poor construction is often obvious right on the rack). Natural fabrics (wool/silk/linen/cotton) are always a good bet, although you still need to check cotton and wool for pilling, which means the fibers used in making the fabric’s yarn were not very long. A little pilling = time to get out your sweater comb/pumice/shaver. A lot = time to put it back on the rack. If you’re not very familiar with how natural or high quality fabrics feel, just check tags on every garment that piques your interest until you start to associate a particular feel with a particular fabric.
Pro tip: if a clothing label has poor grammar/punctuation, a font that looks like it came off your 1994 Mac LC2, or a font that looks like a 6th grader doodled it in their diary, quality is likely to be poor.
If it looks like these, it’s likely a SKIP:
Source for all three pics
If you find this font RUN AWAY:
- Reader Vildy commented last week with some great ideas on how to combat bad lighting that can disguise poor quality or the true color of a piece: “The church thrifts that are my favorite have dim yellowed lighting so bad that what you think is brown turns out to be purple” while “some larger stores like Goodwill have glaring unnatural lighting.” “Take it over to a window” for natural light, she suggests – and take “a small hand mirror [to] check a color against [your] complexion.” Reading glasses or a pocket flashlight are great “to see size and fabric composition” on peskily small tags.
- Stuck with wonky “funhouse mirrors“? Vildy uses that hand mirror to see the rear view. I’d also suggest stepping out of the dressing room to check things out in a better mirror (sometimes located outside the dressing room) or to ask a fellow thrifter for an unbiased opinion. Nothing like thrifting camaraderie to help you out!
- Here’s another tip from Vildy, especially for smaller, independently-owned thrift stores: “Often [store] volunteers miss out on easily repairable damages [due to] that low light coupled with sometimes advanced age – like missing buttons which you’d have to pay to replace or a torn lining inside that you’d have to sew up or moth holes (in plush garments like camel’s hair coats you can tease the pile back through with a needle).” Many times they “will gladly reduce the price or give it to you for free. The flip side of that is the volunteers are only human and they often have notions of what is much more valuable (‘it came from my daughter and she only buys good things’). I never argue against their preconceived ideas and they give me deals elsewhere.”
Now that we’ve talked quality, on to some other parameters:
- Unless your body still has its pre-adolescent proportions, skip items sized with odd numbers; they’re designed for the “junior miss” demographic that most of us left behind somewhere in highschool. Even if you are the same weight/height as in high school, odd-number cuts are far less likely to accommodate curves, hips, and breasts.
- Decide what equals “too short” and avoid it. Refrains I often read on style blogs and comment sections: “I’m done with ‘low-rise’ and ‘crop tops'” or “Why are all the dresses cut up to here??” It goes without saying that what qualifies as “too short” is completely subjective; but if the fabric doesn’t cover what you want covered, move on – even if it’s perfect in every other way. You’ll forever be tugging at/hitching up something, and you deserve clothes that don’t need your attention every 5 minutes.
- Same with sheer. If you are into camisoles, a sheer layer adds interest via texture, pattern, or color. But if camis aren’t your cup of tea and you don’t particularly want to show off your undergarments, skip it. Read why I gave up sheer here and how 81-year-old blogger Dorrie Jacobson rocks it here.
- Figure out a color palette. Contrary to popular style blog advice, this does not have to mean picking 3 neutrals and 2 “accent colors” and sticking to them religiously (although if that works for you, great!). The point is to choose a range of colors, big or small, that can mostly be worn together so that you don’t end up with what I call a wardrobe exponent – essentially one-off items that don’t match much of what you already have and therefore require you to buy several other pieces to get workable outfits.
My best advice for how to create a palette? Learn about color analysis and how saturation, brightness, etc. work. (This post demonstrates how I walk a friend through determining which clothes in her closet hit the same color family. Spoiler: she crafts a wardrobe out of a LOT of different colors and almost no neutrals.) If you are into seasonal analysis (aka the four/twelve seasons) or want to know what colors will make your skin tone sing, google “personal color analysis.” The field has changed a lot since Color Me Beautiful came out; even if you think you know your season it’s worth revisiting, particularly because our season can change as we age.
- Look for brands that will deliver good quality and good style (most of the time – every brand slips up or has seasons where quality goes south). I keep a list of decent brands I regularly find at the thrift store, but here’s a short list of higher quality brands that cater to grown women, in no particular order: Vince Camuto – Talbots – Banana Republic – Land’s End – Chico’s – Ralph Lauren – NYxDJ – New York & Co. – Willie Smith – Elie Tahari – Arthur S. Levine – Loft – Ann Taylor – Anne Klein.
And remember that your likelihood of success increases if you thrift often.
Thanks, Vildy, for your great suggestions; readers, scroll down to add your own! Next week I’ll share style and thrift blogs from older women, so keep your eyes peeled.
Here’s a good read on Adina’s blog about lifestyle inflation. Or, more specifically, since hers is a clothes blog and so is mine: wardrobe inflation.
As you have gotten older and either earned more over the years or gotten more used to the idea of spending money on clothes in order to get quality, have your price points for various items changed?
I’ve pretty exclusively thrifted the bulk of my closet for 10 years now, so I wouldn’t say my price points have gone up – if you don’t count the fact that my local Goodwill’s prices have gone up a dollar or two in most every category. But my “quality point” has gone way up. I don’t buy crappily-made stuff anymore just because it’s a bargain, and I am buying less and less in general these days.
A few areas where I’m willing to spend more than I used to:
Shoes. I need narrow shoes with good arch support – and those ain’t cheap. About 40% of my shoes are retail (vs. thrifted); in the last few years I’ve spent $90-$100 on retail shoes when I previously wouldn’t have forked over more than $50. What changed? I decided that spending more on shoes I love and will wear for a long time is better than getting a “bargain” pair that are only so-so. (But I also ask for quality shoes as gifts so it’s not always my money… does that make it wishlist inflation?)
Sunglasses. All my sunglasses are currently from Goodwill, from a 5K swag bag, orrrrr I found them buried in the sand at the beach – classy. I am thinking about purchasing some high quality sunglasses secondhand (read: eBay or other e-consignment) because most of the ones that end up at Goodwill are flimsy and there’s no way to tell whether they have UV protection. I’ve read enough warnings on blogs by women a few decades older than I am to know that I don’t want UV-induced macular degeneration.
Winter boots. The last time I lived in the cold was 10 years ago and my footwear left over from that era is laughable. If I ever move somewhere cold again, I will invest in proper, water-proof, cold-weather boots. They may still be secondhand, but I’m gonna do it right.
Have you experience wardrobe inflation (or maybe deflation)? If so, in what areas, and what’s your reasoning behind it? Scroll down to share!
Last week I promised side-by-side pics of my new (to me) and old striped tees. The former I stumbled upon in the thrift store and realized it would make a good thrift upgrade for the latter.
You can’t really see it in the bottom photo, but I’m pointing to a side seam that twists all the way around to the front – blech. While we’re discussing its misshapen qualities, the LOGG shirt’s neckline has become asymmetrical. Although it’s super soft, I prefer its smaller stripes better, and it looks a little less casual than the Madewell shirt (shorter, more form-fitting sleeves, no overlock stitch on the sideseam), the Madewell tee is the winner in my book. It has higher quality fabric, is better cut (which means no twisting seams or odd necklines), and the silhouette is of the skimming, tunic shape I love.
Also in the name of comparing upgrades to the items they replaced, here is a much better shot of the color on the (grape? burgundy? – by Loft, on the right) cords I thrifted in lieu of the (wine? cranberry? – by Style & Co., on the left) ones that were too short and loose in spots:
It’s much darker than my other winter colors, but I think it’s actually going to pair very well with the lighter tops I have, tops which will put some distance between the pants and my face so the intense hue won’t overwhelm my pale skin.
What do you think of my upgrades? What have you thrift-upgraded lately?
I don’t know if the color of this scarf is properly called “wine” but I’m going with it:
Here’s a closeup. The “wine” color is a bit intense/saturated compared to my normal wardrobe palette, but the pink/gold/orange tones in it lighten things up a bit, as does the pink jacket and the white dress:
I can’t get them to stay where I want/showing the part of the pattern I want. Suggestions? Maybe I’ll just pin the sucker to my dress next time…
Styling: I started with a dress; Tuesday = yoga day which calls for a simple one-piece to change into after 90 minutes of down dog. I wanted to warm things up with some red-based tones after having worn navy blue-heavy outfits the previous three days, and I knew the v-neck of the dress would work well as a spot to showcase a scarf; hence this particular number, with colors that make me beam!
I knew we’d have meetings in chilly parts of the building so I added a blazer, with this woman’s wide range of reds as inspiration for my color choice:
That way I could also justify keeping my red nail polish on!
I rolled my cuffs and went to work (literally).
Thoughts: the print-mixing on this is my happy place. I really like how the pink/wine (mulberry?)/red all read together and have Costco lady above to thank for that. In hindsight I would have worn a gold necklace peeping through the scarf and my gold cuff to bring a little more polish (and pick up the gold tones in the scarf).
What are your tricks for making a scarf stay in place? What do you think of my smorgasboard of red-based hues? Scroll down to comment.
In my survey at the end of last year several of you asked me to tackle capsule or casual wardrobe ideas for older women, aka “senior thrift style.” (FYI That last phrase is from one of y’all, not me. People have ALL kinds of feelings about terminology for “women of a certain age,” including hating that very phrase and/or the word “seniors.” I will do my best to avoid the minefield by sticking to “older women.” Be sure to let me know if you hate that too…😁)
I’ll end this series by pointing you to blogs created by and for stylish older women. As someone in my early 30s I am far from an expert in this area, but I do know thrifting, and I think a lot of what I see in thrift stores (as well as a lot of style advice) translates well to a variety of ages. So I’ll tackle this topic as a three-part conversation that I hope you all will join in on.
Part one: let’s talk pregame. If you want to thrift successfully, you have to do a little prep work.
- Assess your lifestyle – and your style-style. I read several style blogs written by older women, many of whom have gone through some kind of life transition that affects their style. Think rising up the ranks at work, shifting to part time or more casual work, retirement, caring for grandkids or an aging partner, or traveling more. Or maybe as you’ve aged you’ve just decided to quit wearing uncomfortable shoes and clothes for the sake of someone else’s definition of fashion.
As with any life transition, it sometimes takes a while for reality to catch up with our style image of ourselves. Take a minute and think about what kind of clothes you wear the most during any given week. See if your closet reflects that breakdown. Then, out of the kinds of clothes you are actually wearing, which pieces are you most drawn to, and why? Here are some more prompts for figuring out your style.
If you already have a good handle on your style, skip straight to the next step:
- Figure out where the holes are. My biggest tip for thrifting, whether your’e a newbie or a pro, is to go in armed with a list of what you’re looking for so you don’t get overwhelmed (newbie) or distracted (pro). If you know what you’re missing – say, you have one great blazer but could use one in a different color; you want a more comfortable pair of shoes – your process will be more focused and you’ll have a better chance of success.
A lot more thrifting pregame strategy here.
- Invest in a great bra and some underwear you love. Although I’ve bought new underwear at a thrift store, secondhand is generally not the place to buy lingerie. You need underthings in great condition to make the most of your closet – there’s nothing sadder than a fabulous top that looks funky because your bra is bunching the skin on your back or letting things sag. You don’t even have to splurge; just find a fit guide online or go to a lingerie or department store for a fitting and use that information to get something good in your price range. As we grow older our breasts change, so it’s worth it to do this periodically to keep your gals looking great and your clothes looking great on top of them. (If you don’t wear a bra, then just skip all that advice.)
Buy some no-show undies if you have bottoms that show panty lines and make all your other undies things you love to wear. Again, no need to break the bank unless you want to. I dig cotton so I just get Hanes or Fruit of the Loom in colors/patterns I love. Your mileage may vary. (And if you can afford to buy ethically made underthings, all the better!)
Next week we’ll talk about strategies once you get in the store. In the meantime, scroll down to share any particular questions or issues you want me to tackle during this conversation.
This month’s thrifting window was half as long as normal due to my thrifting fast, but I still found some good pieces. That fast focused my thrifting and I ended up sticking mostly to what was on my (trimmed down) thrift list.
(FYI I wrote that list mid-April but didn’t publish it until after the 10×10 was over; so it may seem like I magically wrote the list Tuesday and found all this stuff in two days, but really I had the whole second half of April to work from that list. And I got lucky!)
Let’s take a look.
Running shirt by Champion
I’ve stepped up my running game and in this hot climate I wanted another sleeveless top to prevent asphyxiating anyone with BO due to re-wearing sweaty shirts before laundry day rolled around. This one was grabbed on a quick thrift with the fam and it’ll do just fine:
Sky blue sleeveless blouse by Dalia Collection
I mentioned in my thrift list that I was looking for another sleeveless, work-appropriate blouse. I love the color of this one and the way it drapes. We’ll see if the side slit rides too high for my pants/skirts but I’m hoping not!
Floral tee by Old Navy
Also from my thrift list: one casual tee down, one to go. The colors are great and I love chrysanthemums on clothes. (I think I’ll do a post on that particular preference because I weirdly have three different items covered in chrysanthemums.)
Palmy beach tee by Loft
Two down, zero to go! I like to have at least one “fun” tee and this is it. It’s relaxed, comfortable, and since it’s Loft (as opposed to, say, Mossimo) the quality is better. I’ve already worn it once over the weekend and I’m looking forward to many more days of feeling eminently tropical in this baby:
Navy leggings – no label
Another item from the thrift list – yippee! These had the label cut out and unfortunately don’t have the great high-rise waist my American Apparel (RIP) ones did, but they don’t cut into my middle too badly and you won’t be able to see the waistband underneath my dresses anyway:
Navy dress pants by Alfani
These are dress pants – they are mostly rayon/nylon and have a nice finish on them – but they also have stretch thanks to a healthy dose of spandex. And the hidden secret that makes them eminently fabulous: they have no zipper! or buttons! Just a lovely wide waistband:
I’m not in love with all the wrinkles resulting from quiiiite so much stretch, and these aren’t the world’s highest quality pants. But they are a great place holder for me to discover whether I “need” navy dress pants in my life and if so, whether the skinny silhouette is the one I want or if I want more “slim.” So far I am loving them, and plan to keep an eye out for a “thrift upgrade” – this same kind of pant but better quality.
Dark burgundy/purple cords by Loft – not on the list!
At the end of the winter I was feeling pretty disenchanted with my mulberry-esque cords:
They were too short to properly cover my legs (hello Wicked Witch of the West socks above) and a little too loose; even with tailoring I was always hiking them up. Also, the color was starting to feel played out. That last may just be a reflection of my other feelings about them, or it may be that colored pants don’t have as much staying power as neutral ones.
They’re much darker than my previous ones which made me hesitate – would they overwhelm my winter wardrobe? But I started pairing them with my cold-weather sweaters and tops (an advantage of a streamlined wardrobe is that you can conjure everything up in your head) and thought they’d do pretty well. We’ll have to wait, of course, until fall to see if that assumption bears weight, but in the meantime I’m enjoying having something different to look forward to. Coming soon: pics with better lighting so you can see the actual color.
Also not on the list:
Breton stripe tee by Madewell
I didn’t have a striped tee on my list but this one jumped off the rack at me. I like my striped tees to have as much or more white than navy, otherwise it just feels too dark and overwhelming. With its simple, classic cut and a bit of marling on the white stripes, this puppy fits the bill perfectly:
It’s much higher quality than the LOGG (H&M) version I had in my drawer for work outfits; that one was cut on such a bias to save fabric that the side seams wrap halfway around my middle. So I’m counting this an a thrift upgrade. Side by side comparison pics coming soon!
The cut on this one is more relaxed, and the overlock stitch on the side seams and hem make it feel more casual. I’ve already worn it on the weekend and loved it, but since I don’t need a 3rd casual tee and I had enjoyed having something striped in my work wardrobe, I’m going to try it out with my skirts and on casual Fridays. We’ll see how that blend goes…otherwise I may just end up with more weekend tees than is strictly necessary. (I don’t know why but I just don’t get tired of wearing the same thing on the weekends; maybe my one or two tops always feel fresh after 5 days of office attire?)
T-shirt hem for the win:
Here’s a bunch of stuff I didn’t get, for your viewing pleasure:
I so wish these had worked – Bass is good quality and it would be nice to have some open-toed, muted red shoes to give me more summer shoe options but they were too big. Good luck to someone with larger feet!
The end! What’d y’all thrift this past month?