Brainstorming (and Daydreaming) about Secondhand Shoes

I recently donated my Goodwill-bought Puma sneakers back to Goodwill; over the course of wearing them regularly for two years, the vinyl-ish lining on the edges of the opening has peeled off and it’s no longer possible to corral the foot odor (a problem with all the Pumas I’ve thrifted, but not with any other shoes I own). So a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to find new-to-me sneakers.

As I brainstormed about their replacement, I realized that apart from rain/snowboots for weather, I’ve only been wearing one pair of shoes this winter – my Lucky Brand snake print ankle boots:

Hi Frida! #favoritesocksever

I thought about what makes them so versatile and how I might find a pair of sneakers that hit that same sweet spot. I came up with:

-Print = visual interest. The print on these boots adds visual interest to pretty much every outfit. If I’m worried about looking overly color-blocked with big areas of solid color, or if an outfit just looks meh, I can add these for an instant visual relief and/or boost.

-Monochrome = neutral. Another reason these go with everything is because the black-and-white color scheme reads as neutral. (They’re also somewhat muted, more cream/charcoal than stark white/black, which means they go better with my Light Summer palette.)

-Comfort. I can walk a mile or two in these comfortably because the heel is low and the insole is comfortable.

Since I wanted to avoid the Puma odor issue, I decided to look for another brand. I knew my secondhand Sperry Topsiders were comfortable and figured that knowing my size in this brand would allow me to search online for a new (to me) pair of sneaks that had a reasonable chance of fitting. Loads of scrolling later, I found these beauties on Poshmark:

The gold helps them add interest & personality, while the embossed “python” print breaks them up just a bit and makes them more of a brushed metallic neutral. Plus they are very comfy! Once the snow and salt disappears, I’m very excited to wear these as a “pop” on an otherwise straightforward outfit. (Full disclaimer: the laces on mine are a weirdly clashing cognac kind of color; I’m either going to paint them with my leftover leather paint from this project or maybe get white leather laces instead.)

I’ve also thought about getting another pair of cold-weather boots to alternate with my snakeprint beauties to give them a little rest – I want them to last a long time! As I scrolled through Poshmark and eBay for ideas in the print/neutral category, here’s what caught my eye:

Metallic ankle boots by Miss Albright (Anthropologie brand) with a funky, fun fan detail on the back:

I have no idea about their comfort level but suspect that that heel will be too high for me to rock on the regular. (I am a lightweight when it comes to heels and favor comfort over height pretty much every time.)

Brocade ankle boots by Aldo:

I love the neutral metallic brocade on this – the lush texture of brocade makes my heart sing! – and the floral pattern (florals are another favorite of mine). The heel is low, which means they would probably be comfortable, although reviews on the Aldo site say these are not very high quality.

Pro tip: when shopping secondhand online (or even in a thrift store), if you’re not sure about quality/how something will hold up long term, Google the piece and see what reviews say.

 

Speaking of brocade…

Brocade floral ankle boots by Shellys London:

I have heart eyes for these. These definitely add visual interest; in fact, they steal the show! They’re not exactly neutral, but they echo the Light Summer color palette fabulously and would harmonize with the large amounts of pink and blue in my wardrobe. The only negative? That 3-inch heel. Although an online review calls them comfortable enough to wear all day, and the large, blocky nature of the heel would provide more stability, as a non-heel wearer I’m not convinced I’d find them practical.

Granted, I’d probably only wear them to church (think of the vestment-like wardrobe statement with them peeking out underneath my robe!!), which is just a few blocks’ walk and lowers the chances of them getting dirty and dingy… yes, I have tried really hard to convince myself to get these secondhand. Walking away now…

 

What makes a shoe super versatile to you? What shoes would you snag if practicality weren’t an issue?

Using Styling Apps to Curate Your Closet

When I first heard of styling apps that keep track of your outfits, it seemed like a 2010s version of Cher Horowitz’s virtual closet. I wasn’t sure I would use such an app; I was already committing time and energy to Instagram to document my outfits and didn’t particularly want to learn to use another platform.

But then I started having ideas for outfit combinations I wanted to try, and with a job and a kid it wasn’t practical to dress up in each combo, take a pic, then post to IG just so I could remember what it looked like.

So I started looking into styling apps: platforms where, after an initial investment of time to upload pictures of my clothes, I could create outfits virtually and save them for future inspiration. Stylebook and Cladwell were the two I’d heard the most about; neither are available for my Android phone, though, so I did a brief search for free, Android-friendly alternatives and came up with Stylicious. (Bonus: it’s free!)

It isn’t the fanciest – the graphics share an aesthetic with Cher’s mid-90s closet computer – and I’m sure it could use some better features, but it does what I want: it helps me curate my closet. Here’s how.

 

Document Outfit Inspiration

Sometimes when I am trying to fall asleep at night, I drift off thinking about how to edit my closet, or how to combine pieces I already own in new ways. (Yes I am a nerd.) As often happens with genius ideas born of late-night ponderings, I often don’t remember my brilliance the next day. But with a style app, I just grab my phone, select the 3-4 pieces I’m thinking of combining, and save it as an outfit:

Later, when trying to decide what to wear, I can filter by season and scroll through the outfits I’ve brainstormed to find creative, new combos. Which helps to…

 

Boost Style Creativity – and Curb Closet Discontent / Shopping

While I do love most of what’s in my closet, I’m guilty of wearing the same outfits over and over again, leaving my wardrobe latent with untapped potential. Then when I’m out thrifting, I’ll think, “Oooh, I could really use another blazer/pair of colorful pants/button down shirt to help boost what I can do with my existing clothes,” instead of digging deeper into what I already have.

Scrolling through previously saved outfit inspiration helps address this; it gets me to realize how many combinations are just waiting to be worn, and encourages me to step outside my style comfort zone with new-to-me looks.

 

Evaluate Looks

I haven’t used my app for this yet, but there is an option in most styling apps to keep track of which outfits you wore on which days – and to make notes about what you liked/disliked and what you’d do differently next time. This is a big benefit for data-minded people, particularly folks tracking how many wears they’ve gotten out of a specific piece, either for cost-per-wear purposes or for sustainability purposes. (Have you heard of the #30wears hashtag encouraging people to decrease clothing consumption by getting more wears out of the clothes they already own? Do you track this?)

 

Test Drive Potential Acquisitions

The best, unexpected use for the style app was test-driving items I was thinking about buying secondhand online. I simply downloaded photos from the seller’s posting, uploaded them to the app, and then mixed and matched to see how they would look with what I already owned. Granted, this approach misses something of how the items will look in 3-D, so to speak, but I’ve found it super useful for doing a more accurate job of the mental outfit calculus we all do while trying on something in a changing room. If the thing I’m thinking of buying makes a decent-looking flatlay with 8 or 10 other pieces, great; if I love it but can’t see how it will really go with much, maybe it’s an outlier and I need to leave it behind.

I’ve been toying lately with adding some mid-rise, water resistant boots and some gold sneakers to my shoe rotation; I also want to add some scarves to my lineup, so I’ve trying it all out on the app:

This way of using the app helped me visualize sneaker-based outfits (yes, I got them, from Poshmark – hooray!) and gave me a sense of which of the half-dozen vintage scarves I’ve been eyeing on Etsy would get the most wear.

 

Do you use a styling app? If so, what do you use it for? If not, can you see it being useful?

Thrifting Baby Stuff

Contrary to popular belief, babies really don’t need that much – and what they do need can be thrifted!

Why thrift baby stuff? So many people donate baby goods (toys, gear, clothes) in great condition precisely because they either buy or receive so much baby accoutrement that they don’t end up using; their excess can be your gain! Plus, when you pay thrift prices, you can afford to experiment and see if your baby loves a bouncy swing/rock and play/swaddler/etc. without breaking the bank.

Tips for nabbing secondhand baby stuff

Where to look: Most thrift stores have kid/baby sections that will cover the bases. Baby/kid consignment stores are good for higher quality clothes and specialty items; the same applies to consignment events like Rhea Lana. Borrowing from friends or searching your local Freecycle/”Everything’s Free in [Insert Your Town Name Here]” group are also great options to try out gear with zero financial investment.

Don’t thrift too far ahead of time. It’s so tempting to stock up on everything baby-related that you “might need one day” and end up with your storage spaces spilling out with unused, bulky baby gear and clothes that just frustrate you on top of trying to soothe a crying baby while sleep deprived. The truth is, you just don’t know what your kid is going to want/need/like down the line because every baby is different. If you’re worrying you’ll never find a particular item in a thrift store again, I’d say don’t – because baby gear cycles through so quickly, it’s very, very likely you’ll see it again or be able to borrow from friends/find it secondhand.

I work particularly hard to avoid this with kids’ clothes so I don’t end up with a bunch of stuff that might not fit during the season it’s meant to be worn, might not be what the kid likes, might duplicate hand-me-downs/gifts we receive later on, etc. The exception with each of my kids so far has been one toddler shirt I just fell in love with when they were still babies/in utero – something that made me smile to think about what they would be like when they were old enough to wear it.

Cleaning: wash clothes, blankets etc. as you normally would before using. You can add white vinegar to the washing machine if you’re worried about sanitizing. Vinegar diluted with water is also a good way to wash baby furniture, toys, etc. made out of wood or plastic.

Here’s the baby gear we’ve thrifted – both for our first (now in preschool) and our current newborn:

Play mat

These are always hanging around the Goodwill. Just run the fabric bits through the washing machine and add on your own dangly toys (that’s Giardia on ours) to keep infants entertained. I find the over-arching arms a bit of a pain to store when not being used, though, so we might ditch this and just use one of the many blankets we’ve been given, since the current baby has a big sister to keep him entertained :)

 

Rocker

We borrowed something similar from a friend the first time around and found it super handy for times when we needed to put the baby somewhere secure to do things with two hands (like, say, eat dinner). When I was newly pregnant with #2 I nabbed this replacement for $10 at a local thrift store. The music/vibrate feature on it is broken, but since the Spouse and I hate toys that make electronic noise, we were perfectly happy with it as-is.

 

Changing Table

With baby #1 we used an inflatable changing pad from IKEA on top of a dresser as our changing station. That dresser is now in the guest room; we often have family and friends staying with us and didn’t want to run in to our guests’ space every time baby #2 needed a diaper change. Luckily a parishioner spotted this made-in-Italy changing table with drawers and buckle-in straps on his neighbor’s curb and brought it over in the back of his truck – so while not technically thrifted, it’s a total secondhand win. I wiped it down with vinegar spray, put the same inflatable changing pad on top, stocked the drawers with diapers/onesies/blankets, and called it good. PS Hi baby hand!

 

Bassinet

We co-slept with our first kiddo, but since she’s now a preschooler who still climbs into our bed some nights, it felt safer to give kiddo #2 his own space so he didn’t get stepped on. When I saw this SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper at the thrift store for $15, I knew it would be the perfect way to keep the baby right next to me for middle-of-the-night feedings but still safe from the midnight rompings of his older sister. (Both our mattress and the bassinet are on the floor.) PS: that blankie was made by my aunt for my sister and me decades ago – talk about hand-me-downs!

 

Bottle dryer

The spouse makes fun of me for this one because with our last kid, I scoffed at these artificial grass-like bottle dryers as space-wasting one-use inventions of the baby industry, designed to sucker bleary-eyed parents out of their money with promises of making life with a baby bearable. (Yes, I was dramatic about it.) But after multiple years of playing Jenga with our older kid’s bottles and pump parts on our regular dish drying rack, and after swapping said drying rack for a simple dishcloth on the counter, this time around I was willing to pay $3 to thrift a designated spot for the bub’s bottles. We’ll see whether it was worth the investment (and additional counter space) once I start pumping and bottle feeding.

 

Toys

Our preschooler bought this cute little elephant rattle at Goodwill with her birthday money as a gift for her soon-to-be-born baby sibling. (Awwww.) She likes to entertain him with the rattle sound, but we’ve found an even better use for it: the trunk is his favorite boob substitute, even moreso than the bink he inherited from his older sister. That accounts for the milky stains on the elephant’s face – time for a wash cycle!

Do the same with toys as with clothes – resist the urge to thrift alllll the toys/games/puzzles at the thrift store until you know what your kid likes and they are old enough to use it. There will always be more Melissa and Doug at the thrift store, I promise.

 

Clothes

Our baby clothes for #2 are a combination of items passed on from our older child and from friends, plus a few gifts. As he gets older, we’ll do what we did with his sister – thrift whatever we need to fill the holes in his hand-me-down wardrobe. This is the one “ahead of time” shirt I mentioned above; I spotted it in a Goodwill while I was pregnant and fell in love with the colors and (surprise surprise!) mix of visual patterns.

 

What have you thrifted or found secondhand for the small people in your life? Any tips to share?

January 2019 Thrift Finds

January only involved two thrift stops, but both were bountiful. Let’s take a look.

First up, a trip to Global Thrift in Waltham, where I found…

This luminous gray Academy Blazer by Banana Republic, size 8:

I had convinced myself that I could go without a gray blazer because I had found so many that were off in some way – not the right gray, not the right cut, with clownishly wide lapels. But this has a great fit, visual interest (via the gorgeous texture), fun contrast in the lining, and a color that is a perfect match for Light Summer. I can’t wait to wear it once I’m back at work – or maybe on a date before then.

Also at Global Thrift, this excellent, new-with-tags J. Crew striped button down:

in the exact light blue and white pinstripe I’d been scouting since being inspired by Keila Tirado-Leist’s version, which she uses almost like a neutral:

 

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Mine fits right now which is great for my increased bustline (thank you, breastfeeding) and for looking put together while still not feeling entirely familiar in my body. I’m not sure how it will work once things go back to their previous size – the shirt will probably give an “oversized” effect, which should be fun to play with – but I’m taking to heart the words of the Virtual Closet Makeover founder Shira Gill, who encourages post-partum women to make sure they have a core of a few things that make them feel great now instead of limping through this transitional phase feeling shlumpy.

And in that same spirit, this Uniqlo tunic blouse to fill the white shirt role in my postpartum wardrobe:

I will definitely try it out, but it occurs to me that the J. Jill cotton long-sleeved tee I thrifted for my maternity wardrobe would probably do this job just fine, including a better color match for Light Summer. I’d love to get better at having these epiphanies before I go thrifting for a new (to me) piece, which is why I keep doing things like the 10×10 challenge or the Closet Makeover, hoping to see what I already have in new ways.

Rounding out the Global Thrift finds, we have two pairs of pants:

Floral Pants by H&M

Do I need more printed pants, or warm weather pants? No. Could I resist these covered in Light Summer tulips? No:

They may be almost too grayed out for Light Summer, but I think the fact that the pattern is in the pants (away from the face) and that I’ll likely wear it with blazers in more spot-on LS colors will make it work. We’ll see if these pants stand the test of time as favorites or if they are fun for just a season.

And these Vince gray trousers – terribly wrinkly, sorry – and one size larger, to account for transitional sizing, than the exact same pair I wore the crap out of in Atlanta:

I gave those away when the knees got all misshapen; is it wise to have bought another pair knowing they will one day wear out in a similar fashion? Or when I had finally realized I don’t need gray pants to make my wardrobe sing? Or given that I generally don’t recommend trying to replace worn out garments with exact replicas because hey, it’s the universe giving you a chance to change up your style? Reader, we shall soon discover the answer.

Last but not least at Global Thrift, I found a dark navy gingham button down from Charter Club which I have already donated back to a local thrift store:

I was looking for something to take the place of this white/charcoal gray shirt, which fit horribly in the bust but which made for great contrast under a solid sweater:

 

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Alas and alack, the intense darkness of the Charter Club shirt didn’t make for much of a contrast with my dark gray sweater, and conversely made for too much of a contrast with my lighter color sweaters. It also wasn’t long enough to pop out underneath my sweaters the way I like, so as to add visual interest. So back to the thrift racks it went.

 

Next was a visit to Restoration Project in Belmont, my favorite small non-profit store packed with great finds.

First up, I knew the thrift gods were smiling on me when I found this perfectly pink Hacking Jacket by Banana Republic:

The color is the epitome of Light Summer’s soft-but-internally-glowing palette, plus the herringbone tweed gives it that visual texture I crave – so much more interesting than solid, smooth fabrics. It’s also significantly warmer than my Metaphor pink blazer, with full-length sleeves and hem. I chuckled at the elbow patches, which highschool me would have adored – but ultimately decided they didn’t take anything away from the polished-yet-unusual effect of a pink tweed blazer. So excited to pair this with…everything.

Finally, Restoration Project also gifted me, on the same trip, with this plaid Ralph Lauren button down in a glorious Light Summer colorway:

Funny story about this shirt: I had been eyeing this same shirt on Poshmark for $23 in a size I know fits me from another thrifted RL button down. The pics of said Poshmark listing were so poorly lit, however, that I couldn’t be sure it was really a Light Summer palette, so I sat on it. When I found the very same shirt for $5 (and no shipping cost!), and in one size larger (which turns out is a much better fit in this cut), I laughed out loud. What a find! Looking forward to seeing how much color I can pack into an outfit with this shirt – or just wearing it with white pants.

Overall, I feel a bit silly about the Uniqlo tunic top and the gray trousers, and completely thrilled about the blazers and the plaid shirt.

What did you discover this month, fellow thrifters?

 

Women in Clothes, Tidying Up, + Shira Gill’s Closet Makeover

Happy New Year, Thrifters!

The babe is here and I’m on maternity leave. Mostly this leaves me with not a lot of time to do things – my hours are taken up with nursing, laundry, napping, trying to entertain two kids, and showering (if I’m lucky!). But that leaves me a surprising amount of time to think while my body is otherwise engaged. Part of what I’ve been thinking about a style shift: what exactly I’m gravitating towards these days (vs. what I’ve always done) and how to incorporate it in into my wardrobe, particularly given that my body is still changing, I don’t have a ton of time to thrift (yet), and I’d like to pare down to even fewer, but more beloved, pieces.

Here’s what I’ve been chewing on during maternity leave as I mull over all of this. Hopefully you’ll find some of it interesting food for thought as well!

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix

KonMari’s tidying makeover show is exactly my kind of reality TV. In a similar vein with the Great British Bakeoff and Queer Eye, Tidying Up is a feel-good show that makes you want to root for the protagonists, even as they struggle along the way to change their relationship to their stuff. But unlike GBBO and Queer Eye, which focus on baking (NOT my strong suit – I always ruin cookies) and whole-life makeovers (ain’t got the time, interest, or money), Tidying Up gave me an inspiring boost to do something similar in my own life. As I’m usually either nursing, playing dinosaurs, or shoveling laundry into the dryer, that boost has so far led to mental evaluation of my wardrobe, not physical cleanout. But just wait ’til the kids are both sleeping at the same time (and I’ve finished a 20 minute nap) – I’m comin’ for ya, closet!

Closet Makeover with Shira Gill

I received some extra money at the end of the year and decided to use it to pay the early bird registration fee for Shira Gill’s Closet Makeover program (it was just under $200; now it’s $249). For a blogger billing myself as “building a stylishly edited closet from thrift store finds” – emphasis on the edited – I could see myself feeling a bit embarrassed to be paying someone else to help me sort through my closet. But I don’t – because the at-your-own pace program feels like a fun way to do something entirely non-work focused with my time away, another way I can be using my brain creatively while loading the dishwasher (again).

I’m also looking forward to the live Q&A calls (for which you can post questions ahead of time and which you can watch afterwards, another great flexibility for someone who doesn’t know what time her newborn will be up or asleep) and to the Facebook community because if I love anything more than organizing/editing my own closet, it’s watching other people edit/organize their closets (which is why I so enjoy watching Marie Kondo in action). It’s just so…satisfying for the part of me that feels refreshed by clean, lovely, bright spaces. Shira’s styling aesthetic (featured prominently on her website and Instagram) also checks that box for me and adds to the appeal of the course. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton

In the completely free category, I checked out the e-book version of Women in Clothes from my local library. (Thank you Overdrive!) When Kelly of Alterations Needed mentioned it on her Instagram account, it sounded like an intriguing anthropological glimpse into women’s lives and relationship to their clothes – and indeed, it is. The authors asked women from all over and with many different backgrounds a series of questions, and as I read through them I’m starting to ask myself the same questions and find some intriguing answers that are helping to shape my style shift. If you like reading style profiles, particularly ones that are savvy about issues of race, gender, and culture, I highly recommend it.

Here’s my favorite quotation so far, from survey respondent Liane Balaban:

“Dressing is about helping yourself do the work you were put on the earth to do. Everyone has their own relationship to beauty, but I would say: Don’t be obvious. Try not to buy things that are mass-produced. Flea markets, church bazaars, or local boutiques are good. Curate rather than shop. Your wardrobe should be a collection of beloved pieces you wear for decades. When you witness beauty, it’s visceral – there is no second guessing it. Plato says that feeling of absolute knowing can inspire the beholder to quest after similar revelation in other disciplines of life – poetry or music or science, for example. The ultimate experience of eros, then, is one that inspires you to live in a questioning, questing way, seeking truth in all areas of life. Ergo, true beauty turns you into a philosopher!”

“Curate rather than shop” really sticks out to me – having a vision instead of just grazing is an excellent way to approach thrifting or an edited closet – as does the idea of visceral beauty (like when you find a signature piece that’s outside your usual style but just sings to you).

What have you been reading/watching/going through lately? Anything to recommend?

Contemplating a Style Shift

This was written during the last week or two of my pregnancy but not edited/published before the babe got here – so just ignore the weird tenses that imply that I haven’t yet had the baby. I have! He’s wonderful! Hooray!

Despite the fact that my body is now closer to wearing pre-pregnant clothes than maternity wear, I’m covered in milk all the time, so I’m trying to spare my pre-pregnancy things from milk stains. Which means that pretty much all of the first paragraph of the original post still applies.

I will admit to having spent this last month or so of pregnancy daydreaming about the time when I will be able to wear more than just the same five maternity-friendly outfits on repeat. (As mentioned here, I don’t think it’s so much because I dislike having so few options at any one time – I am a serial re-wearer of favorite outfits, after all – but I am itching to get out some of the old favorites that are currently unwearable.)

The good thing about this enforced style break and daydreaming, though, is that it’s given me the opportunity to think about my style and how it is ready to evolve.

First up? Dresses with less structure and more flow, color, and print.

Story time: Last week I went thrifting at Global Thrift, a large independent store where I can easily spend a few hours roaming the racks (thank you, maternity leave). I was looking for a nursing-friendly frock in the dress racks when I saw a champagne-colored,  sheath dress in a size I will likely be able to wear once things settle down post-partum. Sheaths had been a major part of my style in the not-too-recent past and I was tempted to thrift it even without trying it on.

But I checked the impulse to buy what’s worked in the past and asked myself whether I had really been excited, in the months leading up to maternity wear, about trotting out my existing sheath dresses. The answer, aided by a quick scroll through my Instagram outfit-of-the-day posts to refresh my memory, was no – even though sheaths look great on me, I’ve been more excited about dresses with more flow and more pattern, or shirt dresses. So I ultimately put the champagne number back.

Dresses that have rung my bell more than sheaths in the past 6 months:

 

What turned me on to this new groove? Seeing Anna from The Anna Edit rock this flowing floral number by Ganni:

 

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Probably because it was such a bold new style choice for her, it has stuck in my mind as an example of how to freshen things up and bring movement and print into the dress section of my closet.

Next: trading pencil skirts for pants 

Don’t worry, I still have my three favorite pencil skirts hanging in the guest closet. But I don’t think I have worn them even once since moving to New England. At my administrative job in Atlanta they read “polished and professional,” but they feel a bit overdone here in the L.L. Bean wonderland that is the greater Boston metro area. Plus it often feels either too hot (all of summer) or too cold (most of fall/winter) for fitted skirts, and I’m not a fan of layering skirts over leggings to compensate for the cold (too many things trying to cut me off in the middle!).

So I’ve noticed a natural shift toward pants – jeans, occasionally, but more often corduroys (winter) or lightweight, bright/patterned pants. I’m thinking about how to bring some more print or textured depth into my pants + blazer game so I don’t just look like a giant color block:


I call this look (styled by my preschooler) “Watermelon Referee”

I’ve already stuck my toe back into patterned pants with these plaid trousers from Express (via Poshmark):

and into patterned blazer territory with this oversized find:

I like how I imagine being able to style the blazer (with solid colored slim fit pants and a white shirt, or a navy or grey turtleneck), but now need to think about how I want to parse out having pattern up top and also in my pants. (Side note: both my mom and my spouse love this blazer. I’m not sure what that means since they have wildly different tastes…)

My current inspiration for doing more with print/pattern? Frances Ayme’s excellent pattern-and-print mixing:

 

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and Kelly of Alterations Needed, who wears very little besides black, grey, and white but who uses print and texture so well:

 

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And, turns out, my own print-mixing self from a few years ago! (Many more print mixes in that post):

 

I did a pretty good job there, and want to return to that sense of fun details and personality in my wardrobe (often helped along by socks).

I’m pretty happy with my shoe game at the moment, but having worn nothing except my running shoes (for walking) or my snakeprint ankle boots (for everything else) during the last trimester, I’m realizing I don’t love my tall grey boots and could probably use a cold weather shoe or boot to take their place: snow-friendly but appropriate for indoor events. The way the snake print of my ankle boots lends “oomph” to an otherwise simple outfit has clued me in to look for something similarly interest-adding at the thrift store. I have no idea yet what that will specifically look like…

I’m getting interested in patterned scarves for a similar reason: though I’ve rarely felt instinctively comfortable with how to wear them, I keep seeing them add that extra something to complete a look and I want to experiment with that in my own outfits.

Here’s one place I did it successfully:

 

I’ve since given away that scarf because it didn’t fit my Light Summer color palette – and it’s one of the very few things I regret donating!

Here’s my original inspiration for patterned scarfery – Ellen Page’s character in Inception:


Source

I usually see older women rocking patterned scarves but the styling here made me realize it could work on younger women, too, and that it could be an everyday look, almost a signature piece. Now I just have to convince myself that I’ll be able to find this exact shade of berry-almost-maroon on a polkadotted scarf that costs a fraction of the $100 listing for this Paul Smith silk scarf I’m lusting after:

Wish me luck, ha!

I’ll report back later with how all of this eventually plays out when I can wear more than 10% of my wardrobe again. Until then, I’m slipping back into pj pants, nursing pads, and a sweatshirt. Ciao!

Thrifting Signature Pieces

Thrifting is often great for finding basics – a striped tee, a blend-into-the-background pair of jeans, a coat for when it’s cold and you just need something. In other words, the pieces that fill a hole in your wardrobe without standing out by a mile.

But sometimes, you find a star – an item that adds a signature feel to your style and gives your whole closet more depth and personality.

The first piece like this I can remember finding? A vintage houndstooth fedora I spotted at a small antiques mall in my grandmother’s hometown back when I was in high school. Fedoras have since taken a backseat for me style-wise; I gifted the one in question to a dear friend who has a substantial fedora collection, but have saved two others that belonged to my grandpa:

 

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Like that first checked fedora, thrifted signature pieces usually catch me by surprise. They feel like something I never knew I always needed, pieces that find me instead of me looking for them. That’s at least in part because a signature piece is a bit outside your usual style wheelhouse, like something you would regularly wear but with amplified swagger or boldness:


Have I rocked big, colorful earrings in my mid-20s? Yes. Have I since migrated to subtler, classic gold styles? Yes. Did that stop me from mixing my current gold aesthetic with giant lion’s head door knockers? No.

Signature thrift finds are also often good quality. Cheap pieces with added personality just end up seeming tacky, while high-quality statement items somehow get away with more. They tend to look on-purpose rather than try-hard, flimsy, or kitschy.

For example, I should’ve left this polyester number on the rack; the poor quality fabric made it look less fun-and-funky and more disappointing-flea-market find (you know, the kind of flea market that turns out to be all junky imported fast fashion instead of vintage finds):

Speaking of vintage, vintage numbers (like the aforementioned fedora) are a good bet for signature pieces because they often combine both quality and that feeling of something extra; the right find stands out from current trends without feeling costume-y.

If you’ve been tempted to rock vintage but aren’t sure how to strike that balance, google “how to wear vintage” and read up on suggested strategies. Most advice cautions against head-to-toe vintage, arguing for one accent piece mixed in with more modern staples. I’ll add that while heading to a vintage-focused consignment shop can be a fun time warp, being surrounded by period pieces can make it hard to imagine how to combine them with your own wardrobe, and prices are often sky high. My best vintage finds have been mixed in among the racks at thrift stores:


Oh hi, Diane von Furstenberg silk wrap dress for $15; I SO wish this handmade hexagonal vintage number had fit; a handmade gem I made mine.

Last but not least, if you usually find yourself gravitating more towards solid colors, a print is a surefire way to add signature oomph to your lineup. A blazer, a pair of pants, or a pair of shoes in a print will elevate your look; you can play with the relative amount of color, boldness vs. subtlety, and real estate occupied by the piece to determine how much you want to turn up the volume. (And if your signature print experiment turns out to be a dud, you’re only out thrift prices instead of consignment or retail.)

If you’re new to prints and a bit hesitant to try them out, try a pair of glen plaid pants to add depth to an outfit without screaming at passersby, or use bolder snake print or leopard in small doses (like a belt or shoes) to add pizzazz without overwhelming:

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From my belt capsule wardrobe.

Although these were a gift, not thrifted, I’m going to include them because they are probably my ultimate signature piece, adding something subtle yet unexpected to every outfit:

I wear them to church so often my kid calls them my “church shoes” and was convinced it was Sunday when I put them on this morning. If that’s not signature, I don’t know what is.

And to end, I’ll share the blazer that “found” me last week while thrifting for a nursing-friendly cardigan:

It’s got everything: subtle plaid-like stripes and herringbone, vintage (I’m guessing 80s) quality, and just the right price ($7) to try out the oversized blazer trend once this baby is out and about.

What are your signature pieces and what makes such a piece “signature” in your eyes? Have you had any luck thrifting said pieces?

When Your Favorite Season of Clothing Is Also the Least Worn

Recently I used a fun feature on Instagram to pick out my favorite looks from the last year: the bookmark-like “Save to a Collection” button. Essentially it lets you create an edited selection of Instagram shots so you can look at all your favorites in one place. It’s also an excellent tool for saving inspirational looks from other people’s accounts so you can get a sense of what you might want to incorporate into your own wardrobe. (Let me know in the comments if you want instructions on how to use it.)

But creating a “My Style Favorites” collection made me realize I have a problem: my favorite clothes are the ones I have the least opportunity to wear.

This is because it turns out that Spring, my favorite season style-wise, is also the shortest season here in New England. So all of my cropped, fun-colored pants and lightweight, funky blazers – the stuff that’s too cold for our long winter, too hot for full-on summer, and odd color choices for our short-but-sweet autumn – get worn for a period of about two months (give or take) a year.

For example:

 

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I certainly have pieces I love in the other seasons, so it’s not that I’m depressed about what I wear the rest of the year. But when I’m at the Goodwill/browsing Poshmark and find a great 3/4-sleeve blazer or a fantastic ankle-length patterned pant, I find I have just about zero justification for adding to the part of my wardrobe that’s already the most populated. There just aren’t enough days of appropriate weather to give my favorites the number of wears they deserve!

To further demonstrate, here are my latest Poshmark crushes:

The plaid shirt could be layered under a sweater (and indeed, that’s a major way I imagine wearing it); but the pants are both cropped and the blazer is lighter weight/shorter sleeved.

Maybe I just need to find ways to style such pieces for the cold – e.g. get a pair of boots with longer ankles that would rise up to meet a cropped-length pant, or add a light blazer over a thin sweater to get enough warmth instead of always opting for thick sweaters.

Can you think of other ways I could wear spring-like favorites through more of the year? Do you have a “problem” where your favorite season of clothes doesn’t match the realities of your climate?

Maternity Capsule Wardrobe Update: What’s Left Standing

I’m rounding the bend here – just a few more weeks (give or take, babies have a mind of their own) before Mini Thrifter #2 arrives. At this point in my pregnancy there are only so many things that a) fit and b) are appropriate for winter weather, so I thought I’d share what has become a truly minimalist capsule wardrobe.

As always, it’s all thrifted or secondhand. Here’s where we started:

                        

 

Here’s what I’m actually still wearing (plus a pair of leggings):

        

Plus this, which I haven’t worn in a few weeks but now that I just reminded myself of it I might wear it tomorrow:

Quite a paring down, isn’t it? It’s almost as small as a 10×10 wardrobe challenge. I am getting a bit tired of this limited fare, but not so much because I want more items; I’d just enjoy some more color – the end of this capsule accidentally ended up very white and grey – and the ability to swap in some favorites that don’t currently fit this belly. It’d also be nice to wear pants that don’t require squeezing my stomach to stay up.

As to what’s next: I haven’t really planned for a nursing wardrobe. I found last time that specially-designed tops and bras were more of a hassle than they were worth and I often just ended up pulling up my top and bra and going for it. (Turns out babies cover a surprisingly large amount of your exposed skin, plus there are always nursing covers.) So for the moment my strategy is to keep wearing tops with some give in them and bottoms with some stretch and see what my body does. I’ll keep you updated!

If you’ve gone through pregnancy and/or nursing, what was your “fourth trimester” clothing approach?

Dressing for the Day

Last week I had a day where I was in casual jeans and an oversize sweatshirt all day, followed by a day of wearing fitted jeans and a polished sweater. The difference in how I felt was remarkable: on the first day, I felt schlubby, had lower energy, and like I had thrown together whatever came to hand; on the second day, I felt put together, productive, and pleased with my appearance.

Day 1, more or less (this was before I changed into jeans):

Day 2:

I’m definitely not the first person to recognize or muse on the power of the clothes we wear to help lift our moods, present ourselves with confidence, and energize us for the day ahead. I’m also not the first person to recognize that having a choice about this – whether to dress down or up – is a privilege not everyone enjoys. (For example, if you have a chronic disease or mental health issue, dressing well might feel like an insurmountable task some days – whereas if you are a person of color or of lower socioeconomic status, you may not feel you can dress down and still be taken as seriously as a white person or upper/middle class person in gym clothes.)

But despite having known what a difference dressing for the day makes and knowing it was a choice I had, I was struck by how strong the contrast was. Thanks to my capsule maternity wardrobe, intentionally picking out clothes that (although not fancy) fit well and looked nice took the same amount of time as throwing on a sweatshirt and scrubby jeans, but felt worlds better.

I once attended an event rather underdressed and let the sense of dis-ease I felt prevent me from connecting with other attendees, only to have a mentor (also my boss at the time) remind me that I can do anything in flip flops (yes, my chosen footwear for said business lunch in downtown Chicago. #collegestudent). I’ve carried that with me ever since and it’s enabled me not to feel frozen or even embarrassed when I run into a parishioner in the grocery store or during school dropoff dressed in sweats and sneaks. But it’s also great to feel like taking 5 extra minutes in the morning – or just being intentional with the five minutes I have – can give me that unexpected boost of being ready to face the world.

Where do you fall on the dressing-for-the-day spectrum? How do you dress if you are working at or from home, or at an office, or if you are retired, or going to the gym and running errands? Have you noticed a correlation between the way you’re dressed and the way you navigate your day?