Ask Leah: Thrifting Workout Gear & Underwear?

Ask me a question! (6)

A few weeks ago reader Whitney asked on my Facebook page:

I’m wondering- what do you do about workout clothes/underwear? I spend a lot of time in both and while I don’t like buying brand new from a lot of the companies, those are items that-when used- just have that “ick” factor I can’t get past.

“Ick” factor is an understandable worry for many folks who have thought about thrifting, whether workout/underclothing or not.  The mantra I share with them is one I borrowed from Bea of Zero Waste Home:

A washed secondhand undergarment is cleaner than a new one from a department store.

Click here or here for some really GROSS/toxic reasons why this is true.  (If you are a true germophobe, the “ick” factor of new clothes may permanently scar you, so it might be best to take my word for it.) Continue reading “Ask Leah: Thrifting Workout Gear & Underwear?”

Summer Wardrobe Rehab: Dresses

I’m doing an end-of-summer wardrobe clean out–see tops here and how to fight the fear here.  Today, dresses!  Continue on for cuts and keepers.

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Dress from Walmart my mama bought me.  Mom, I love you, but this dress does not love me back.  I dig more structured pieces (see the keepers below), so I hardly ever reach for a dress when I want to be comfy on the weekends because I like to sit, play with my kid, do handstands…and when I do reach for a casual dress, it’s now the J. Crew dress with a dropwaist silhouette that makes me feel less food-baby (thanks, pleats) and more FUN, baby.

IMG_2020 Continue reading “Summer Wardrobe Rehab: Dresses”

Summer Cleanout, Part 2: Fear

Yesterday I started my Closet Rehab: Summer Edition, aka I Don’t Have a Perfect Wardrobe.  I began with tops: tops that didn’t make the cut, tops that were “Stars of the Summer,” and some that weren’t absolute faves but were worn regularly and without frustration.

The description of that last category, you may have noticed, does not particularly resound with enthusiasm. They were clothes that worked, but not rocked.  And if you’re trying to get to a wardrobe of clothes you love to wear, “not frustrating” is a little underwhelming, no?

You’ve probably been there before: you’ve done a closet cleanout and been pretty ruthless in saying goodbye to clothes that weren’t making you happy…only to find yourself a week later pulling on a shirt or pants you kept but didn’t love, rationalizing that they’re practical, or too cute or original to give away, or that other people like them on you.

That was me yesterday morning, as I donned my navy and white ruffled sailor shirt, already suspicious that I might have kept it for the wrong reasons. As I thought about the number of “hearts” it got on Instagram, or the number of compliments I’d received when wearing it, or how its ruffles added visual variety to my navy-heavy wardrobe and played well with a pair of pants, a skirt, and shorts I own, I realized that I was thinking my way into keeping the shirt instead of feeling my way into keeping it.

The truth is, I like the shirt but I don’t love it.  It’s cut a little funny at the bottom and its fabric is just about starting to pill and collects little pieces of lint and detritus.  I love the ruffles, true–but they don’t really feel like “me.”  It’s like the coral top that just felt “meh,” no matter how good it seemed on paper.

This shirt was originally up on the wall to be cut, and then at the last minute I decided to give it one final run (yesterday’s wearing) to decide–because maybe I just hadn’t given something different enough of a chance?  But my initial intuition was right, and all the reasons I fought to keep it were based in fear.  You know:

Fear of what others will think: “That was so cute, why did s/he get rid of it?”

Fear of missing out: “What if this trend or new-to-me style is really great and I just haven’t given myself enough time to warm up to it?”

Fear of not having enough: “This goes with everything…if I get rid of this, I won’t have anything to wear.”

Fear of not being enough: “My style should be more girly…more professional…more edgy.  This makes me look more like who I think I should be.”

Friends, none of those fears should hold you back.  A wardrobe is, in some ways, a superficial–literally and figuratively–place to talk about liberating yourself from preconceived notions, yours or others’.  But clothing can also be a very powerful visual expression of identity, particularly for people whose style doesn’t fit within mainstream sartorial conceptions.  Whether you’re doing a closet cleanout at the end of a season or embracing your deepest inner truth via the way you dress, it can feel exhilarating to step into who you are in a tangible way.  Even if it’s just by giving up a shirt weighed down by “shoulds.”
So goodbye, sweet shirt.  It’s been fun–now go make someone else happy!

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What clothing items have you held onto when you didn’t love them?  Was fear behind it, or something else?  Scroll down to join the conversation!

 

I Don’t Have a Perfect Wardrobe

So you may think that because I have a style blog in which I advocate for a closet full of nothin’ but clothes you love to wear that I, myself, have a closet full of nothin’ but clothes I love to wear.  You’d be logical to think so, but you’d be wrong.  Turns out, it’s more aspirational than anything.  Did I really just use aspirational in a sentence?

Anyway.

Sometimes I buy and wear clothes I don’t love!  A new find seems “practical,” or I’m caught up in the moment and my thrift lust distorts my style conscience, or I buy something that *should* tick all my boxes but just doesn’t work, for some reason. That’s why, as I mentioned yesterday, at the end of a particular season I like to evaluate whether something really got worn with gusto or whether it sat in the closet feeling neglected and crying “Put me in, Coach!”  (Or kept silently begging to be benched even as I continued to wear it.  Since clothes talk and all.)

I should clarify something, though.  Because I like to give these items a good solid run-through and really make sure they’re not for me before I donate them back (is that the clothes equivalent of catch-and-release?), or because it’s practical and goes with my other clothes and everything else was dirty, I could very well have worn something half a dozen times and still not love it.  So my criteria isn’t so much how often I’ve worn it, or does it go with the rest of my clothes, or *should* I keep it, but rather “How do I feel when I’ve decided I’m going to wear this for the day?  Mediocre?  Fine?  Not great?  or EXCITED?!”  In the end, the keepers are the ones that I keep trying to find excuses to wear even though they already flood my Instagram and others might be sick of seeing me in them.  Those pieces make me feel sunshiney when I put them on, and when part of your closet feels that good, you want ALL of your closet to feel that good.

With that in mind, I give you Closet Rehab, End* of Summer Edition, Part 1: Shirts.

closet Continue reading “I Don’t Have a Perfect Wardrobe”

Buyer Beware: Wardrobe Exponents

It sounds more mathematical than straight-up chic, but in the quest for a capsule, uniform, edited, or otherwise minimalist closet, a wardrobe exponent should not be underestimated as a force that can derail your game plan faster, and more unexpectedly, than anything else.

So what exactly is a wardrobe exponent?  It’s an item of clothing that has the potential to exponentially increase the size of your wardrobe.  At first glance a wardrobe exponent appears like a wardrobe asset; on closer inspection, however, you’ll find that it necessitates acquiring at least one and usually several other items in order for it to play well with your existing wardrobe.  Think of it as the style equivalent of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

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If you buy a sheer lace top, chances are you’ll want something to wear underneath it…

Continue reading “Buyer Beware: Wardrobe Exponents”

Closet Rehab: Spouse Edition

A few months ago I heard the familiar cry: “I can’t find a shirt to wear!”

It was my spouse, standing in front of his closet.

He was so frustrated by the array of holey, frumpy, button-missing, baggy, and/or too-small shirts confronting him that he couldn’t get dressed.

This is exactly what a capsule wardrobe is designed to avoid; if you have in your closet only things you love to wear, dressing is a breeze–even fun! It was time to do a very quick, low stress closet rehab and return my spouse’s closet to what it should be: a source of enjoyable sartorial inspiration.

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Continue reading “Closet Rehab: Spouse Edition”

How to Start Your Own Capsule Wardrobe: Pants

It’s Pants Week on Thriftshop Chic!  Monday: my newest thrifted pants; Tuesday: shopping for pants at the thrift store; Wednesday: my pants wardrobe lineup!  Tune in tomorrow for how to quickly thrift pants when a favorite pair bites the dust and you need new pants STAT.

Today we’re going to get you started on your own wardrobe capsule re: pants.

Some of you may be asking, what’s a capsule wardrobe and why would I want one?

A capsule wardrobe has a lot of different definitions (see here for more), but for the purposes of this blog, “capsule” is a shorthand for owning nothing but clothes you love and actually wear regularly.  The end.

I’ll write a post in the future diving more into that, but for now, let’s FOCUS: how do you make this happen for pants?  How do you end up with nothing but pants you love and wear?

SOUP & SALAD (1) Continue reading “How to Start Your Own Capsule Wardrobe: Pants”

Capsule Wardrobe: Pants

It’s Pants Week here at Thriftshop Chic.  Today we take a peek into my pants MVPs (or, well, all my pants, since I try to make all my clothes clothes I love to wear); tomorrow, how to start your own pants capsule.

My wardrobe is in some ways a capsule wardrobe (see here for my inner monologue on the nature of my wardrobe and a discussion of capsule vs. uniform dressing).  This means that I aim to have a limited number of pieces that mostly go together color- and style-wise so that I can put on something I love every morning without having to agonize over whether it “works.”  (I usually decide what to wear in the shower, and I take short showers.)

I’d say I have about equal love for pants and dresses–as well as a healthy flirtation with skirts–but I wear pants the most because they pair with tops to make more outfits than single-note dresses do.  Within a capsule wardrobe, this translates to having a good number of pants, but all of them pairs I wear often and that go with most, or all, of my tops.  I’ll discuss a litte more of the strategy behind rounding out your collection in a minute, but first let’s take a look-see at these beauties (all thrifted) and how I wear them. (Forgive the wrinkles; I’m allergic to ironing and a couple pairs have been living in a drawer since March because it gets warm early here in the South.)

First, the warm-weather pants.

Red cotton tapered pants by Bandolino (my faaaavorites–so comfortable and a signature, yet somehow neutral-ish, color):

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I wear these babies with tucked in blouses, with tops that are more tailored, or with tops that are loose-fitting but on the slim side.  The faded red goes with dove grey (as above), navies, whites, off-whites, and blushes quite easily; I imagine it’d go with camel, peach, and others as well.  I always wear these pants with flats–floral sneaks, dress flats, or sandals as above–although they could probably work with an espadrille wedge or a casually-styled heel.

 

White cotton straight legs by Banana Republic:

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These puppies are true white and therefore SO fresh in summer–and since they’re lined, they work well into September, too, since we’re not really following the rule about no white after Labor Day anymore.  They go with navy, turquoise-y/teal, coral/red, camel, blush, and…just about everything, and although they’re a little loose for a really flowy shirt, they can handle tucked in and loose-but-slim tops like a pro.  I do flats with these as well, although I think they’d look super chic with heels (I just don’t own any!).   If you’re afraid of getting white pants dirty, don’t be–I keep a bucket and some oxygen-based cleaner in my laundry room and spot treat or soak whenever necessary (for me, that’s about every other wear).

 

Navy slim Tahari pants from Monday’s post:

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These are on the slimmer side–it does NOT look like it in these pictures, I realize, but the hips and thighs definitely bring it in more than my other warm weather pants, allowing for pairing with some looser tops.  In navy they can handle all my red/blush/white/turquoise/teal/camel tops.  (Pro tip: navy is a GREAT dark neutral if black is too harsh for your skin tone or your taste. *raises hand*)  These are also cut a little shorter so wedges (ha, ^^that’s my idea of wedge!) and heels are perfect pairings.

 

Medium weather pants

Navy polyester Loft trousers (Marisa “straight” cut):

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These are much looser in cut than the first 3 contestants.  They drape in a trouser-y way–“trousers” to me spell fitted in the rear but relaxed down the leg, which these are.  To balance out that drape, tailored or tucked-in tops are my go-to pairing.  They aren’t lined but they are polyester, which means they don’t breathe as well; temp-wise, I actually have been wearing these recently because our office is air-conditioned, but I pay for it when I venture outside for more than 5 mintues.  Shoes-wise, I think they go best with sneaks or dress flats but forgot to make the change for the photo. Their drape means they would probably accommodate boots, and they definitely have enough room for big thick knee socks come winter.

 

Cotton Glen plaid men’s pants from Zara:

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These are indeed men’s pants; they were mis-organized in the women’s section and I benefited from the happy circumstance! They are nice and light but somehow don’t make it into my summer wardrobe…probably because the plaid makes me think of fall.  The plaid has black and brown stripes, and the piping near the waist is a velvety brown; yet the overall effect of the plaid is a light grey, so they work as a neutral and wear well with black or brown shoes & belts.  As a men’s-cut pant they have a higher waist and looser pelvic area, so I tend to wear them with closer-fitting tops.  Also, these pants helped me discover that men’s pockets are GINORMOUS.  It feels like my entire forearm has been swallowed by the pocket on the right, whereas women’s pockets are pathetic excuses for holding a chapstick (or they’re non-existent).  Harrumph!

 

Denim grey sailor pants from Old Navy:

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I found these beauts in a thrift store somewhere in…Alabama?  Mississippi? and knew they had to be mine.  As you have probably deduced, they are way different from my typical cut, but I love the variety they bring to my wardrobe–I like to think they add a little unexpected sass.  The sailor-style buttons are really kind to my mid-section and work best with tops that are fitted or straight but slim and that don’t venture too far below the waist–who wants to hide those glorious buttons??  The legs would probably work better with heels or substantial boots, but as I am an avowed afficianado of flats (learned from my mom who’s still paying for wearing heels for most of the 60s and 70s), I just make it work.  The soft grey goes with my warm-toned sweaters and long-sleeved shirts as well as navy, blush, and winter whites.

 

Cold weather pants

Brown tweed trousers by Bebe:

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These are my only truly cold-weather pants–tweed and lined–which is just fine for Hotlanta, but I wish I could wear them all year round.  The trousery-flare cut (don’t you love that jaunty little break in the right-hand photo?) is divine and I can.not.handle the piping on the pockets and waist (closeups once the weather cools down…November??).  That piping highlights an area that is very kind to my rear and mid-section, and the tweed camouflages some spots that are starting to wear.  I grabbed them out of a headed-to-donation-land pile at work 7 or 8 years ago and they always make me feel great when I put them on–a true sign of something that’s earned a place in your edited wardrobe.  They work best with fitted or straight-but-slim tops, and dress flats or delicious brown leather boots (my black and grey thrifted cowboy boots clash, sadly).

 

Jeans — Forever 21 slim

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These go with everything.  No, seriously.

 

 

Strategy

So if you were reading closely, you noticed that although the cuts of my pants span the spectrum, pants within similar seasons tend to jive with the same type of tops so that I’m not limited to wearing the same pant/top one-hit-wonder combo over and over–e.g. I’m not stuck wearing a peplum shirt with my only pair of skinny pants because it looks odd with all my straight cuts.  (The slimmer navy pants are a newly acquired departure from this model, but so far I’ve been wearing them with tops I already own that usually get tucked into looser pants; thus I’m expanding, not limiting, my options within what I already own.)

Following the principle of slow style, it’s taken me two or three years to build these pants together into a roster that covers all my bases (baseball pun intended).  I made it work for a long time on just the colder weather pants and the red pants, but this season I decided that I wanted to wear pants more in the summer.  Although I spent a few years with some unsatisfactory white jeans (didn’t wash clean, too tight in the waist, loved rolling the cuffs but not their flare style), this time I nailed the white pants on my first thrifting trip out.  Carried away by my thrifting good fortune, on that same trip I misfired on some olive pants (uncomfortable, not versatile enough), and I took my sweet time finding both pairs of navy pants (as chronicled here).

Assembling your pants lineup takes time whether you retail it or go the thrift route–you have to live in different styles, realize some are too uncomfortable or restricting for your everyday life, try out colors, etc.  But once you get your team* together, it feels so good to own only pants you love and wear ALL the pants you own.

 

Was this helpful?  Are there any pants you would trash or treasure yourself?

Looking to build your own thrifted pants capsule?  Check back tomorrow for how to get started!

 

 

*I apologize for all the bad sports metaphors in this post.

 

 

How to Pack for Spirit Airlines; or, a Capsule Travel Wardrobe

We’re leaving on a jet plane for back-to-back family reunions – one in the Midwest, one on the East Coast – and one leg of our flight is on Spirit Airlines.  You know what that means – NO LUGGAGE.  Well, no luggage if you are thrifty (err, cheap?) like we are and don’t want to pay upwards of $20/bag, since carry-ons and checked bags alike are considered “optional.”  But the ticket price was right…

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Eek!

 

…so now I’m packing into one “personal item” for a 10-day, 2-state trip that includes both the beach and family portraits.

Let the fun begin! Continue reading “How to Pack for Spirit Airlines; or, a Capsule Travel Wardrobe”

Capsule vs. Uniform

I’d been thrifting with the concept of “capsule” in my mind as it’s a great tool for getting your wardrobe to that sweet spot where you love and wear everything you have.  For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the term “capsule wardrobe” was coined in the 1970s by Susie Faux, a London boutique owner who used it to describe a core of classic pieces that will never go out of style and which can be supplemented by a selection of fresh, trendy pieces each season.  In more recent times, Courtney of Project 333 re-conceptualized the capsule as a series of fixed, small collections–one for each season–and it took off, with myriad bloggers coming up with their own twists, rules, and definitions.

12 months of outfits based on Hermes Grands Fonds silk scarf
Sample capsule wardrobe via The Vivienne Files

Continue reading “Capsule vs. Uniform”