What I Wore: Skinned Knee Chic

When your spouse is sick and you are singlehandedly making the church run with a toddler and you are preaching and you are LATE, you only get three outfit photos and you are HAPPY with them:

Do you like how I turned a last-minute snack for my kid into an autumnal-colored accessory?


And when you have recently face planted while running and skinned your knee (and your elbow and your wrist) pretty significantly and your household has run out of band aids so you can’t wear pants or leggings (plus you ruined your favorite pair of leggings in said face plant) but it’s too crisp to go completely bare legged, you put on knee socks and pretend you meant to wear this all along (skinned knee not pictured out of consideration for the faint of heart):


The print mixing, it is out of control:


Color block/striped dress: Gap, thrifted
Blazer: Haberdashery by Personal, thrifted
Belt: J. Crew, thrifted
Scarf: my mama’s Kohl’s shopping spree
Socks: Target
Ankle boots: Lucky Brand, gift from my sister


Seriously though I did buy these socks for just such a look, hoping to encourage myself to wear skirts through fall and thinking that, with the ankle boots, it would read sort of like a tall boot (of which I have yet to be convinced I need to buy a pair although I would be happly to thrift some). Don’t worry, these socks came in a two-pack with plain navy so I don’t have to be in a 5-billion-patterns mood to wear them.

What do y’all think of the knee sock/ankle boot look? Or the tuck-your-scarf-into-your-belt look? (Very handy for showing off your belt and keeping the fringe out of reach of handsy toddlers/your coffee mug.) Or the print party? Scroll down to comment!


Friday ReBlog: Thrifted Jeans with Thriftanista in the City

I’ve had the same thrifted jeans for years. They’re Forever 21 and I am pleasantly surprised they’ve lasted this long. While they’re still serviceable, they’re starting to stretch out of shape in the knees soon after washing, and the fabric is feeling less supple. All to say, I have it in mind to thrift some new jeans this winter, ones that hold their silhouette and feel really luscious.

So it was good to be reminded by Troy’s post at Thriftanista in the City of the virtues of shopping for jeans at the thrift store. She has some good tips, too, including a willingness to try a new silhouette, that I’ll be keeping in mind when I start hunting for some new (to me) denim.

Happy weekend, Thrifters!

Thrifting as Identity

A few weeks ago reader Ginna shared some thoughts with me about thrifting that got me thinking about how thrifting shapes my identity.  Here’s what she said:

I’m wondering to what extent thrifting clothing represents identity for me. I grew up super conservative in baggy t-shirts and ill-fitting jeans, so being able to have nice clothes feels incredible. Not to mention being able to play with more styles other than ‘plain and sensible’ ones.

I’d never thought about it this way before, but I also grew up wearing mostly baggy t-shirts and loose pants, to the point where a fellow student late in high school had to point out that my pants were two sizes too big for me.  Not that I wore things I thought were uncool, but my style just wasn’t super current because I interpreted trendy fitted clothing as “tight” and spaghetti straps as “revealing”; friends who started wearing such things had simultaneously started doing things I wasn’t yet comfortable doing.  (And yes that gets into a whole other conversation about what women’s clothing represents and the virgin/whore dichotomy perpetuated by how society perceives and portrays women’s bodies…including the time my mom told me that the fitted sparkly pants I wanted to wear to school were fit for a “streetwalker.”)
Anyway.  When I realized I could wear clothing that fitted properly, it was a revelation.  Likewise was the revelation in grad school that I could dress up for class – instead of wearing a t-shirt and scruffy jeans I could put a little thought and style into my outfits.  This let me have fun with my clothes and feel a little more grown up to counterbalance the embryonic state of perpetual studenthood.
Thrifting made both of these shifts more achievable – thanks both to price point and variety of styles.  And as Ginna pointed out, it’s enabled me to afford “nice” clothes that I would hesitate to spend $$ on in retail life.  (I’m campaigning to make that the next meaning of IRL. Yes?)  I have a soft spot in my heart for thrifting in part because it has seen me from awkward young adult to a professional with her own sense of style.
And as you’ve probably figured out from reading this blog, I am proud that I am now known, in part, for being the woman with the thrifted (yet stylish) wardrobe.  Building an entire wardrobe out of secondhand stuff I love is a fun, perpetual challenge always humming along in the background of my life – kind of like being the lone vegetarian or the person training for the marathon.  It’s something funky people know about me without me having to scream it in their faces.  Likewise it’s a great way to champion values I hold dear – human rights in the garment industry, environmental care, reducing consumerism, and the value of reusing/repurposing discarded things (which is very theological in my opinion).
What about you?  What does thrifting say about who you are?  Is it wrapped up in your identity or is it just a practical way to clothe yourself without spending oodles of moola?  Scroll down to comment!
And thanks, Ginna, for the ongoing conversation about our passion for thrifting!

My Love Affair with Texture

This fall/winter as I continue to restyle my cold weather wardrobe, I’ve been looking for just the right pieces to hit my sweet spot – classic with an interesting detail that makes an outfit go from blah/bland to ooooh, yes!  in short order. An unexpected color/pattern, a fresh hem or decorative seam, metal trim or other embellishment all do the trick; but a particularly easy way to do that in cooler weather is with texture, since a funky knit or some velvet instantaneously conveys that cozy “sitting by the fireside with a hot drink in hand” vibe.

You may have noticed that I started to figure this out last year with this sweater:


Yes, that’s a literal hot drink in hand.

See the contrasting knits along with the split hem? Yum.



And this dress:


Also with the contrasting knit (plus a zipper – bonus!):IMG_2753


These were two of my favorite pieces last fall/winter, so I wanted to take what worked here and apply elsewhere.  Thus you saw in my fall/winter wardrobe preview these luscious numbers:


Chain detail!  And metallic weave!  I’m such a punk.



Cartonnier blazer with salmon/cornflower marl – I can’t even believe this fantastic update to the boring (to me) ol’ grey/black marl exists:



Two-toned blue sweater by Liz Claiborne – yes please!


Colors are more accurate in the pic above but I wanted to give you a closeup on that contrasting knit:



Toppers with stuff happening in them!

img_4229 IMG_4153

Okay so technically I guess those last few were visual texture (aka pattern) instead of actual texture – knit has a texture of course but these are pretty flat.  I don’t really like sweaters that feature standard Aran knit or cable patterns in the weave – too preppy I guess?  Too expected?  Though other people do make them look lovely…


Back to actual texture  – corduroy pants with a wale so soft you’d think it’s velvet!

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And I recently snapped up two more pairs in navy and a cranberry/burgundy/oxblood color featured in these two posts LINK:


Even the shoes have texture.  PS These pants are also featured in Sunday night’s post.

The navy ones (not pictured) will probably replace my Uniqlo navy pants; even though they are lower rise than I would like, they just feel so much more polished than the Dickies-esque flat texture of the Uniqlo ones.


Finally, on the same trip I found the red cords, I also nabbed the rayon/acrylic/cashmere beauty featured here. It’s by Joan Vass Studio and likely retailed between $70 – $90.  I love the rounded hem, the length, the color, and the texture contrast:


(You can see more pics of me wearing both finds here.)

The tapered vertical lines (a little hard to see in the first pic) and the color reminded me of this top…


…which I am starting to think is too athleisure for my taste – and also a little too casual for my workplace.  So I’m gonna swap it out and swap in the Joan Vass with a thrift upgrade.


As I home in on what I love about interesting, unexpected, contrasting textures – both visual and tactile – I’ll likely fine tune my cool weather wardrobe a bit more.  It might seem like a lot of clothes shuffling, but as I talked about here, I’m a fan of living into my style and trying new things out for new seasons – both weather-wise and life-wise.  Figuring out where my style sweet spot is definitely involves trial and error, but because I love thrifting so much and the price tags are so low, I actually enjoy the process.
What about you – what’s your style love affair?  Do you like the textures I’ve included above or are they too subtle for your taste?  Do you feel like you have to stick with clothes you buy for a season, or do you feel free to swap ’em out as your taste evolves?  Scroll down to comment!



What I Wore: Head Scarf with Fall Florals

This accidentally posted early so if you’ve subscribed but are now reading on the blog, you’ll notice there are a few revisions and the links are live, yay!

I’ve been looking for an excuse to wear this scarf and this weekend it finally happened: I washed my hair (with honey, don’t worry) right before church and wanted to disguise the not-properly-dried, not-yet-renourished-with-luscious-sebum look. I spent a fair amount of time scrolling through Dinatokio‘s hijab-chic IG account last week and spotted a Lebanese woman rocking a similar look at the zoo on Saturday, so I thought I’d try my hand at a similar hair-hiding style. Though obviously my motives derived much more out of vanity than modesty.

Bonus: my new cranberry/burgundy/oxblood pants got to play along!


Mmmm, the texture on this top is simply medieval:img_4521


I folded the scarf in half like a triangle, then folded it in a narrow strip but left the tail (the triangle of fabric on top) out so it wouldn’t cover the part of the pattern I wanted to show off.  I tied it around my head like a giant headband, then looped the ends around my bun and tied them in a little knot, the made sure the triangle up top was tucked securely into the main band so I didn’t look like a milk maid:img_4525

Texture galore!img_4526


Parting your hair on the side, then pulling a bit of the longer side out gives your ‘do a little oomph:


Yes most everything is still green here.

The champagne metallic shoes picked up the gold in my top:img_4520

A little sass for the camera:

Top: Meadow Rue, thrifted
Pants: Style & Co., thrifted
Flats: Trotters passed on from my mother-in-law and repainted
Scarf: no tag, thrifted

I rarely do head scarves or hair wraps so this initially took a little convincing myself that it didn’t look weird in the mirror, but I ended up loving it.

What do y’all think? Do you wear scarf-like things on your head or usually sport them elsewhere? Scroll down to comment!

PS you can see some more of the scarf’s pattern here.


Friday ReBlog: Go Fug Yourself

Go Fug Yourself has nothing to do with thrifting.  It’s a celebrity style blog, which even as I am typing these words reads like the exact opposite of secondhand real-life dressing which is what THIS blog is about.

But it’s actually been really useful in thinking and writing about style.  And it’s damn funny – if you need a laugh, just read the incredibly imaginative/insightful/witty commentary.

Also, the comments section is full of opinions yet generally free from nastiness.  It’s like a strange little oasis of goodwill in the ocean of spew that is the comments section of the internet.  The celebs featured are of a variety of races and ethnicities.  Authors Heather and Jessica (both white women) do a decent job of calling out racism/sexism/other isms in their coverage.

What I find helpful, style-wise, about the posts Heather and Jessica write is that they describe in detail both the clothes themselves and what works/doesn’t about them.  I learn a lot of real sartorial terms – e.g. “illusion netting” – and Fug terms that help describe the feel of a look – e.g. “scrolldown fug” or “NAB” (glossary here).  Reading the comments further exercises my style muscles since Fug Nationals explain their range of reactions well.  You get to go “oh, yeah, THAT’S why I loved/hated this” – all that refinement of personal preference re: clothes can’t help but transfer itself to your real-life wardrobe, even if you’ve never had to dress for a movie premiere in your life.

If you could care less about celebrities or the fancy clothes they wear, I would still direct you to the Fugs and Pieces feature, which is a weekly link roundup of think pieces, interesting features, fascinating trivia and pop culture stuff.  If you want to know what it takes to make a great Fashion Week photo, bask in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s advice for living, read up on Pakistan’s baseball team or an emerging Cameroonian designer, or simply revel in the knowledge that there are now Golden Girls action figures in existence, Fugs and Pieces delivers.


That’s a wrap, Thrifters!  Have a great weekend.


DIY: In Which I Paint More Shoes

Blog readers who’ve been around since last summer may recall the teak Trotters flats, courtesy of my mother-in-law, which I stripped and repainted champagne.  Well that lovely woman’s feet are the gift that keeps on giving, because as they spread out a bit, she can no longer fit in narrow shoes and she passes them on to moi!

Thus I was the lucky recipient of these Sebago boat shoes, again in a dark tan color:


They were practically brand new, and if I had a lot of brown (any brown?) in my wardrobe I would have left ’em as is.  But since my neutral colors tend towards grey and navy, I decided to redo these in a nice soft grey.

I followed the same steps as in my first shoe repainting foray, taking my own advice to use a higher quality brush this time around:



First I took the raw hide laces out of the first few holes so I’d have easy access to the tongue and some of the side parts.  I accidentally went one hole too far – I’m going to have to use a needle and string to rethread that puppy because it was originally enclosed between two layers of the shoe in an inaccessible area.  Pro tip if you’re working with shoes like this: check how far you can delace BEFORE yanking out the laces.

Then I got out my bottle of Angelus leather preparer and deglazer, left over from last time:


I’d say one bottle covers two pairs of shoes (flats, that is – size 10).

I used an old toothbrush to scrub off the original color.  Similarly to nail polish remover, once your chosen implement (paper towels, rag, toothbrush) has saturated with color, it won’t remove any more pigment.  This means I did a lot of little dips into the deglazer followed by good scrubbing in a small area, and then wiped the removed color on an old rag:


It was pretty hard to tell the difference between areas where color remained vs. areas that had been saturated by the leather deglazer.  Eventually I figured out that if I wasn’t sure, I could just brush the area and wipe it on the rag; if color came off onto the rag, there was still original pigment there and I needed to keep working.  It was pretty much impossible to keep the original color from staining the white contrast stitching, and I knew it would be impossible to keep from painting it later, so I decided early on that the contrast would just go grey like the rest of the shoe.

Color starting to come off – the waterproof coating took some elbow grease to remove.  You can also see how the contrast stitching is starting to dye:


Color removed on the right, not on the left: img_4483


After I was satisfied that I had gotten most of the color off, I let them dry in the sun for about 20 minutes:

img_4485 img_4484

Next, the new color!

As with last time, with each new dip in the paint I began with the stitching, raw edges, or seams that would need a lot of paint to saturate, then spread the excess out over smoother surfaces.  Direction of the brushstrokes didn’t seem to matter as much this time; after one coat I couldn’t tell which way I had painted.  This led me to let my toddler help me paint the second coat on one of the shoes, a move my spouse called “brave”; but honestly, look for yourself at the end – can YOU tell the difference?  (I will have to use a little deglazer to get some overenthusiastic brush marks off the sole…)

I also decided to paint the grommets because it was too dang hard to paint super carefully around them without getting paint on them as well.  If I had more patience and had used a fine angle brush, I probably could have made it work.

I chose Angelus leather paint in Cement/Grey White, hoping for a muted grey that would jive with my wardrobe palette.  Here’s how it looks on the first coat:

img_4486 img_4487

A little more blue than I would like, but I was hoping that wouldn’t be obvious after a second coat.

Between coats I let dry in the sun for an hour or so.  Did I mention how lovely it was to do this outside in the warm October sun?  (But watch out for falling leaves as your paint dries.)

And here’s the final product after the second/last coat of paint: what do you think?  I’m excited to wear them after a full 24 hours of drying (just to be sure) and a rethreading of that one lace.



This project, by the way, cost me about $3 (paint) and would cost you about $10 if you had to buy the deglazer and brush as well.  Not bad for a weekend afternoon!


What I Wore: Adding Color to a Neutral-Heavy Wardrobe

adding-colorMy summer wardrobe has lots of corals, tomato reds, teals, and a dash of cerulean that liven up some neutral pants and dresses.  My winter wardrobe, though?  It’s a pretty stark assemblage of creams, greys, and navies with a tiny touch of blush pink and gold.  I have an open closet and staring at all those neutral cold weather clothes lined up every time I passed was starting to make me feel a little too Ice Queen.

My first thought was to get some red shoes to warm things up.  Because red shoes are SASSY.  They are bold and fun and insouciant and they completely change the tenor of a wardrobe.  And red – either a solid bright red or a darker oxblood variant – would be the perfect winter version of the corals and tomatoes so prominent in my summer closet.

Well, shoes are a bit harder to thrift than other things, partly because our feet come in so many different sizes and partly because I personally have AAA narrow feet and need an arch.  So it’s a rare affair to find thrifted shoes that fit and are comfy, and ankle boots (the style I had in mind) are even harder to come by – as a still-current trend they haven’t really made it to the thrift sales floor en masse yet. (These Sam Edelman suede beauties aside.  I’m still sad they were too big for me.)

I thought for awhile about buying a new pair retail, which is how I have gotten a few pairs of my shoes – either as gifts or bought with my own hard cash – because I care that much about having comfortable, well-shod feet.

But then I started thinking there had to be a cheaper, more environmentally friendly way to bring some color into my wardrobe.  I realized I already owned nail polish in oxblood that I LOVE and could easily sport on days when I’m feeling too neutral.  I also already had a scarf in the neighborhood of cranberry and with some gold and coral accents that would make it interesting and translatable to other parts of my wardrobe.  So far I hadn’t spent a cent and my closet already had more life!

I was still hoping for an actual piece of clothing, though, so I thought about thrifting for a turtleneck or thin sweater in burgundy/cranberry/oxblood.  But I was a little wary of wearing the color near my face since it’s pretty robust for my skin tone.

Then I nabbed the Talbots catalogue that comes to my boss at work and spent my lunch flipping through it for inspiration.  (I feel like Talbots is about half twee and half dead ringer for my style…so this little habit is a half-guilty pleasure.)  The color and texture of this “rum raisin” skirt fell in the dead ringer category and I made a mental note that that hue would work as a great “red” for fall/winter.

Lo and behold, the very next Saturday I had a chance to go to my local Goodwill and flip through the pants racks for something similar.  I found American Eagle Outfitters jeggings (great fit, too casual for work), Talbots cords in a spectacular flame red-orange (my size but didn’t fit and too intense), and some Style & Co. cords in a slightly redder, less purple cast of “rum raisin.”  They were a size larger than my normal and marked “P,” but something told me to try them on anyway.

They fit!  Well, they fit in the waist and had a nice high rise, although a belt may be necessary; but they are too short in the leg for my normal taste.  HOWEVER they are the perfect length for wearing with ankle boots without having to cuff/tuck/overlap:



I also picked up this Joan Vass top which is a perfect fit for my wardrobe for reasons I’ll write about next week.  This outfit would have read a lot more neutral/monochrome with grey pants or cream pants, but instead the red changes things up completely.  It’s able to bring a little fall to those green green trees you see in the background…10 days into October.  Not complaining though!

Giving the photographer that “quit making me do weird facial expressions” look.

The split hem dRawls attention to the two colors playing off each other:


Which I gotta do whenever I can since even my necklaces are neutral:


Top: Joan Vass Studio, thrifted
Pants: Style & Co., thrifted
Ankle boots: Lucky Brand, Christmas gift
Necklace: DIY from thrifted parts


That’s the saga of adding some color to my neutral-heavy winter wardrobe – and for now, I think it’s enough.  I can’t wait to pair these pants with almost infinite top/cardigan combinations since they will all work together.  I’m looking forward to painting the nails when it gets well and truly cold – that color’s a little dramatic for fall.  And I’m excited to try that scarf out with my white sheath dress – or what else?  Scroll down with suggestions!

If you’d like some more ideas about adding color to your neutral closet, check out this series (link goes to the oldest in the series) and this series (link goes to the newest post in series) over at The Vivienne Files.  I hope my post convinces you that you don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of stuff (thrifted or not) to enliven your wardrobe; Janice’s visual magic might help you envision how one or two pieces could make what you already have really pop.


If you have a neutral-heavy wardrobe, do you ever feel the desire for some COLOR?  If so, how do you mix it in?



Friday ReBlog: 10×10 Outfit Challenge

Caroline over at Un-Fancy recently completed a 10×10 outfit challenge: 10 outfits in 10 days using 10 pieces of clothing (including shoes, not including other accessories).  Her inspiration for the project?  She wanted to resist the urge to buy a bunch of new stuff for fall and instead challenge herself to discover new ways of making outfits with pieces she already had.

My favorite thing about the series?  (Well two favorites). She gave her outfits grades based on how functional/comfortable they were but also how “Caroline” they were – how close they each came to her own personal style sweet spot.  And she wasn’t afraid to give an outfit a failing grade!  Most style bloggers you read (myself included) are tempted to post only the “successful” outfits and to skip spilling the beans that a chic- or hip-looking outfit was really uncomfortable or not necessarily “us.”

I also liked that remixing 10 pieces forced her to get creative and pair things in ways she doesn’t normally wear them – and thus she discovered a new-to-her silhouette that is her “fashion future” – the direction she wants to head stylistically. Have you ever had an accidental “aha” moment like that?

Caroline also invited readers to share their own outfit remixes, and thus I happened upon Cleshawn of Home to Hem’s great video lookbook of her 10×10 challenge.  My favorite thing about her video?  You get to see her styling the outfits in real time – realizing a bandana tied like a choker at the neck would take a simple outfit up a notch, or that a shirt needs to be tucked or rolled just so.  For folks who want a boost in the “how do I style this?” department, you should definitely give it a watch!

Both Caroline & Cleshawn have very laidback, work-at-home creative-type vibes.  I totally think this concept is applicable for a more formal office environment, though – anyone up for trying it together?


Have a great weekend, Thrifters!


Travel Wardrobe: Chicago Sightseeing & Lake Michigan Dunes

Ahhh, two of my favorite places: downtown Chicago and the Michigan dunes.

Last week we took time out to visit family and celebrate our anniversary, and although we had access to laundry (thanks Mom & Dad!), I wanted to pack light and bring versatile pieces that could do double duty for sightseeing in the city and the beach.  I also wanted things that could layer since the weather was about to take a dip into cooler temps – real fall!  (Although sadly the trees were all still green because that part of the Midwest has had such a warm late summer/early autumn.) Continue reading “Travel Wardrobe: Chicago Sightseeing & Lake Michigan Dunes”