Thrifting Current Trends

One reason you might hesitate to thrift is the worry that you’re going to look dated. I mean, if everyone is donating their worn-out (or never-worn, sitting in the back of the closet for years) stuff, aren’t thrift stores just full of clothes that are out of style?

Short answer: nope. And there are a couple of reasons why – both negative and positive.

First up, the sad trombone: fast fashion has made retail clothing so cheap it’s become disposable. Consumers can afford to buy a pair of kick flare jeans – that’s trendy speak for cropped & flared jeans that make you look like you had an overnight growth spurt ca. 2000 – decide they don’t like them, and donate them two weeks later. Then you find them new with tags or barely worn at the thrift store while they’re still on sale at the retailer. Not great for the planet or for workers who aren’t paid a living wage to make the clothes; but if you happen to like a current style, it’s a way you can give those items a new life instead of sending them straight to the landfill.

Behold, new with tags J. Crew light-blue-and-white striped button down. This style was making the style blogger rounds this past fall, and I thrifted mine just a week after I saw it on Instagram:

Poshmark and eBay are great for this – I saw this floral midi dress in Target, stalked it on eBay, and found it a month or so later, in time to wear in the warm-weather portion of my pregnancy:

 

Second, on a happier note: everything old is new again, so if you are thrilled to see spaghetti straps and choker necklaces make a comeback, head to the thrift store and see what 90s (or older) treasures have recently made there way to the sales floor. Your vintage finds will look on trend but also unique, because you’re not buying the mass market current version.

I give you the oversized blazer trend, in a unique vintage pinstripe style instead of the houndstooth or glen plaid I see everywhere:

And the wide-stripe shirt trend, still for sale online at J. Crew:

which I first saw styled (and fell in love with) on Frances Ayme:

 

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My 100% cotton vintage version has long sleeves; I could keep it that way for cooler weather or decide to chop the sleeves for a hot weather look:

 

There’s also always the option to DIY a current trend out of a thrift store find. It wouldn’t be hard to take a pair of scissors to some seriously flared jeans and make your own kick flares, for example, or, if you have sewing skills, to turn a giant muumuu into an off-the-shoulder maxi dress.

What current trends have you thrifted? Were they new-with-tags, or vintage-turned-trend?

 

 

Turning Style Inspiration into Real Life Outfits – Using Clothes Already in Your Closet

Not long after I gave birth, I decided I wanted to recreate a favorite pre-pregnancy outfit formula: a white blouse under a blazer over slim pants. I was thrilled to be making my way back to some of my old standbys and knew that finding a white top that fit my postpartum chest (hello breastfeeding!) would allow me to wear blazers both old and newly thrifted, because who cares if they don’t button? Worn over maternity pants (and eventually regular pants), this combo would slide me back into my style groove.

So I went thrifting and found this Uniqlo tunic-style top:

Lovely, yes? But then I got home and opened my drawers and realized that I could have created a very similar look using this long-sleeved white J. Jill tee from my maternity wardrobe:

Sure, there would have been no interesting collar, but I planned to cover the collar up with a fun scarf anyway; same with the 3/4 length sleeves to be covered by the blazer. And yes, the split hem on the tunic had more personality than the tee’s straight hem, but I could easily fake that by tucking in the front of the tee and letting the back hang out, like this:


Ta-da!

This lightbulb moment has inspired me to take other looks I’ve been lusting after and recreate them with pieces already hanging in my closet instead of buying something new to make it happen – a particular temptation when following style influencers whose job, after all, is to try to get you to click on affiliate links. I’m scouring Poshmark or eBay instead of clicking retail links, of course, but I’d still rather get creative than consume. Because at its heart, that’s what thrifting is all about.

So here’s how I’ve been flexing the recreate-the-look-without-shopping muscle:

Catalogue your inspirationI do this in two places: Instagram, by saving images of IG outfits I love; and Pinterest, by saving images from the wider web to an inspiration board. This way I can easily refer back to a look without scratching my brain, trying to remember where I saw something or what I liked about it – or just obsessing about the one piece that stuck in my mind.

Zoom out. Instead of finding out exactly where pieces are from and obsessively tracking them on online secondhand platforms (guilty…), I try to take a broader view and figure out the general strokes of the outfit – e.g. fitted sweater + loose pants + short boot, or long skirt + floral blouse tucked in – and brainstorm what I have that could fit those slots. (Scroll down for real-life examples.) Then…

-Zoom in. Maybe I don’t need to replicate the entire look – maybe it’s just a styling detail I love and can apply to items I already have. Rolling a cuff, tucking in a pocket square, inverting a collar, or pairing sneakers with an otherwise dressy outfit – any dressy outfit, not just the one in the photo I admire – can all transform an outfit’s vibe.

Okay, let’s see how this works in real life:

Look 1
This is the first look I really thought I could replicate; my success with it propelled me to try others.

Inspiration: Keila Tirado-Leist

 

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Zoom out:
Blue-and-white striped button down shirt + dark blue puffer vest + plaid blanket scarf

Zoom in:
While I have a dark blue puffer vest and I want a white-background plaid blanket scarf, I realized that what I’m really drawn to in this look is the white and medium blue stripes on the shirt. So often striped shirts are white and black or white and deep navy blue, both of which feel too stark for my color palette; this variety, though, is just luminous.

My Take:

In the shirt slot, I could probably have used a solid, luminous medium-blue button down shirt I already own, but it doesn’t fit my current chest (thanks breastfeeding!). So when I spotted a new-with-tags J. Crew version at the thrift store that did fit, I “cheated” a little and bought it, then paired it with the dark blue vest I already had. Success!

 

Look 2

The Inspiration:


Garance Doré via Pinterest

Zoom out:
Colorful head wrap + light neutral blazer over light blue shirt + pocket square + sunglasses

Zoom in:
I do love a good head wrap (what is the right term for this??) but I think what really does it for me here is the dark pocket square in a light neutral blazer; it reminds me of the numerous well-dressed Southern men I encountered when living in Atlanta and how they embraced light neutral suits and played with color.

My take:

I grabbed one of my grandma’s vintage handkerchiefs and folded it so the corners stuck up, then tucked it into the pocket of my blazer. I haven’t been as drawn to my white blazer this year as I was last year (maybe because it got so much wear??), but I’m sure it will look just as good if I decide to try to replicate the inspiration photo more closely.

 

Look 3
Also in the scarf category – neckerchiefs!

The Inspiration: Adele from Simple Life Musings does this look on the regular:

 

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Zoom out:

White tee + scarf tied at the neck. It feels fresh and fun, and it’s a great way to accessorize an otherwise plain shirt and vary your look using whatever scarves you already own.

Zoom in:
I love the monochromatic + red look on Adele, but don’t like it for me. So I didn’t particularly strive to replicate the color scheme/other details, although I did decide to go for a layering piece, swapping the cardigan for a blazer.

My take:

I rolled and tied another handkerchief from my grandma (this one’s a map of the United States!) around my neck instead of using it as a pocket square. Since the scarf-at-the-neck thing is a big current trend, it’s an instant update. Success!

 

Look 4

Inspiration:


Orla Sheridan on Instagram (swipe to the 7th photo)

Zoom out:
Solid pink blazer over white tee + light blue jeans + pink velvet pumps

The shoes could be classed several ways for our purposes: pink shoes of any kind, particularly in a different shade from the blazer; velvet shoes of any kind for a pop of texture; heels of any kind as contrast to the casualness of the rest of the look, etc.

Zoom in:
I love the velvet heels and the monochromatic contrast – and could have recently snapped up pink Keds in my size at the Goodwill to fill the “pink shoes” slot – but I decided that what I really liked about this look was the combination of solid pink-white-blue up top and how the blazer elevated an otherwise casual look. Thus…

My take:

I used my existing pink blazer (hi, that’s in almost every look here…), white tee mentioned at the beginning of the post, light blue jeans with a very similar cut, and block-heel shoes which, although not pink, added just as much interest thanks to their metallic weave. Bam!

 

Which look is your favorite? Are there any looks that inspire you and that you could recreate from things already in your closet?

 

How to Look Put Together While Breastfeeding

Long time no post! I’ve had a busy few months coming back from maternity leave and have found Instagram a faster place to post pics, muse on style, and even share a few thrift find videos. For more regular content, find me on IG at www.instragram.com/thriftshopchic. If you’d rather wait for more in-depth stuff here on the blog (thank you!!), rest assured – I still plan to post here whenever life is a little more relaxed. 

As I sat nursing my kid in clothes soaked through with milk a week after giving birth, I texted a friend to say “No one reminds you how gross this part is!”

It can be hard to feel put together during the postpartum stage, particularly if you’re breastfeeding; it often seems like everything you touch becomes drenched in some kind of bodily fluid. It’s more than okay to live in sweats and muddle through it, but for those moments when you want to feel like something other than a human ShamWow, here are my tips.

Soak up the extra. My sanity (and my laundry!) improved so much when I was able to get rid of the cold, clammy sensation of extra breast milk against my skin. To get the excess under control, I tucked a burp cloth between my baby’s chin and his shoulder underneath to catch drips and spills; wear washable cotton breastpads which I change frequently; and if I really need to make sure a random letdown doesn’t soak through, I use some washable bamboo breast pads with a plastic lining (be warned that these aren’t breathable and leaving them in too long can lead to thrush). I leave a stack of cotton breast pads on the nightstand so I can easily swap them out at night, when I’m most likely to leak a bunch.

But for me, the MVP of staying dry has been a milk saver – a silicone container that slips into your bra and collects the excess milk from the breast opposite the one on which your baby is nursing. No more soaking through your breast pad and onto your shirt! Huge bonus: you can freeze the extra milk and save it for when your baby needs a bottle, thus getting a great start on your stash without needing to use a pump. I use the Milk Saver by Milkies and collect at least 8 ounces a day, sometimes more. (This is not an affiliate link or a sponsored review; I bought it with my own moolah. This brand does cost more than others but is made in the USA and gets great reviews. Fourth months in, I love it.)

 

Figure out how you like to nurse and dress for it. The standard attire for breastfeeding is a nursing bra and any number of nursing-friendly tops: wrap v-necks over camisoles; tops with secret extra panels that move out of the way; shoulders that come unsnapped. But for me, all that gear and extra fabric gets in the way of nursing; I end up fumbling with catches and snaps and panels while the baby is fussing with impatience. Plus, leaving any part of the shirt underneath my breasts is a recipe for soaking (and staining) as the shirt then catches what my kid isn’t drinking.

Since my first kiddo was nursing, I’ve done what I’d seen another mama do: I simply pull up the bottom of my shirt and pull up my bra to give my baby access and get on with it. (Thanks Caitlin!! <3) Bonus? I never need to buy nursing-specific clothes, which often come with a retail markup compared to regular clothes.

If nursing bras and tops are your jam, though, you can definitely find them at thrift stores and kids’/maternity consignment stores, or borrow from a friend, which is what I did the first time around when I was figuring everything out. Check the regular racks for v-neck tees and dresses as well; if they expose too much bra, a stretchy tank underneath or a scarf over can cover up the gaps:

A few other tips:

  • I find that with any type of top, it’s easier not to mess with multiple layers. So if you need warmth, try layering with open cardigans, blazers, etc.
  • Wear your maternity pants/tops as long as you want. A friend with a year-old baby and I were talking about this recently: I’m still wearing a maternity top just because it’s comfy and I like the stripes, and she’s still wearing maternity pants because she never has to worry about if they’ll fit or sag. If they’re still useful to you, wear them!

I spy a maternity top!

  • Spruce up your look with a few non-nursing accessories. If you’re nursing in cold weather, find a coat (either from your closet or the thrift store) that makes you look and feel great so you’ll always be pulled together no matter what things look like underneath! Same with fun, comfortable shoes (see my golden sneakers above). My favorite way to look put together that has nothing to do with bras or tops? Earrings. I can swap out PJ pants for jeans, throw on a coat, put in my earrings, and in no time I’m presentable to take my daughter to preschool even though my bra is soaked and I woke up three times in the night to feed the baby.

What are your tricks and tips for dressing while you’re nursing? Or dressing while you’re recovering from surgery? Or chronically ill but still need to live life? Share with us below!

Lessons from Clothes I’ve Outgrown

These days the word “outgrown” makes me think of how fast my preschooler is blowing through toddler sizes. But as an adult I’m still outgrowing clothes, too – just in a different sense.

You know when you buy something that is good enough to convince you in the dressing room, but after a few wears, an annoying flaw becomes apparent? For a long time I would suffer through pants that had to be hitched up or blazers that cut off my range of motion because I liked how they looked or I worried about how I could possibly make outfits without white pants/neutral blazer/etc. etc.

But as I pare down my wardrobe to fewer and higher quality pieces and still find I have plenty to wear, I’ve become less and less willing to tolerate bothersome clothes.

In the last few years, I’ve outgrown clothes that are poor quality; tight; sheer; too short or too low cut; scratchy or itchy; pill easily; or fit everywhere but one crucial spot. And as I’ve become more honest with myself about what irritates me – no you will not enjoy wearing a see-through blouse no matter how cute it is! – I’ve been better able to head off bad purchases in the thrift store instead of bringing them home with me. Win.

Here’s a recent “outgrown” that illustrates the power of quality and fit. Banana Republic makes a great blazer, and I recently had the good fortune to thrift two of them, both of which fit perfectly. They’re beautifully tailored, with just enough give to allow for reaching, stretching, etc.:

 

Then I tried on this Kenar linen blazer, which is a great Light Summer neutral and which I wanted to use in an upcoming outfit post:

I hadn’t worn it in awhile, but going straight from the BR blazers to this one, I realized how tight the shoulders were and how much the sleeves compressed my arms when I bent at the elbow. Super uncomfortable – I couldn’t believe it was still hanging in my closet!

Sometimes you need the contrast of something perfect to help you realize just how far off the mark “good enough” really is.

So it was goodbye to the Kenar blazer (*tear,* thank you for all the neutral blazer looks you helped me dream about), and then I relaxed right back into the stellar tailoring of the BR blazers.

What have you outgrown lately? And what helped you go from making something less-than-ideal work to not settling for anything less than perfect?

PS For loads of looks featuring these two new-to-me blazers, visit my Instagram page.

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?

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?

Embracing Color and Saying No to Neutrals on Instagram (aka Swimming Upstream)

I mentioned a few months back that part of what I was looking forward to about my new Light Summer color palette was embracing color again:

This palette made me realize that I had let myself get seduced by the neutral-heavy palette of minimalist Instagram style mavens. Although there’s a lot to be said for playing with texture and silhouette within a very muted, narrow palette, I came to recognize it just didn’t feel like me. (One of my favorite shirts is bright blue snake print, for Pete’s sake!) When I posted a muted peach skirt on Instagram asking for color suggestions to dye it, someone suggested “rust!” with enthusiasm and I just wanted to run the other way.

It’s been a breath of fresh air leaning back into color with this new color palette and embracing PATTERN beyond just a neutral stripe or dot. (Can you tell how happy those floral pants make me?) I’m excited to share more with you as I finish building my spring/summer wardrobe – whenever spring finally arrives!!

If you scroll through my Instagram feed (on the righthand sidebar, or at www.instagram.com/thriftshopchic), you’ll see I’ve run straight into the arms of the Light Summer color wheel and have barely looked back. Although I wisely followed advice posted early into this journey and got myself some neutrals to pair with my newly found multi-hued treasures, those neutrals have been mostly white and denim/chambray. When I’ve tried to jive with the minimalist-inspired style Instagrammers, the pieces just haven’t worked out. (See the first two rejects in this post.) They feel too…muted for me now.

But I realized a few weeks back that my Instagram feed wasn’t reflecting my rediscovered enthusiasm for color. I was still following cool girls with a heavily edited, highly stylized neutral aesthetic – partially because neutrals tend to make great capsule wardrobes, and partly because the ethical brands I want to, at least in theory, support seem to be allergic to color. (What’s the deal, Eileen Fisher & friends? Give us some rainbows already!)

I will always love the sight of a chic, slimmed-down wardrobe (like this one who is starting to introduce some color to her closet or this one, who isn’t and that’s fine). It makes me unaccountably happy to gaze at a thoughtful, selective wardrobe where you can see all the pieces and dream of future outfit combos – I guess because it exudes contentment: “This is more than enough and I’m happy with it.” Wardrobe goals, as the kids say.

And people who love color? Well, on Instagram at least, they tend to be maximalist rather than minimalist. A few folks I’ve followed recently have a great time with color but do so through repeated trips to outlets and/or internet sales. Splurging on retail ain’t really my thing – and honestly, giant thrift hauls aren’t, either. How do people keep track of/wear so many pieces? To each their own level of wardrobe volume, I suppose!

But if I can skip over the shopping aspect of how folks arrive at their cute looks (hint: don’t watch Instastories!), I find myself a lot more inspired, and having a lot more fun, following color-filled accounts. They rarely convince me to go hunt for specific pieces – I just enjoy the aesthetic, and the inspiration to pair together colors or patterns I haven’t yet thought of on my own. Starting off Friday with a picture of someone’s flamingo-print blouse just makes me smile in a way that cognac + cream + black capsule wardrobes do not.

So without further ado, here are a couple of colorful IG accounts I’ve started to follow recently:

Frances Ayme – a J. Crew-loving mom of 3 who calls Bermuda home:

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Tarilyn – a 50-something Mainer with a passion for skirts and making life in New England look like vacation in Florida:

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Alice – a midlife mom with a flair for pattern:

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A bonus: these women reflect a greater diversity than the young, hip white women who dominate the IG neutral/ethical game. And it’s nice to see women who don’t blog or Instagram for a living wearing their real clothes!

Who are your favorite colorful Instagrammers (or bloggers)? Share the wealth!

Tweaking Outfits toward Perfection

Not that one ever achieves outfit perfection….or that one should even hold outfit perfection as an objective. Or that one should talk about oneself in the third person.

But I noticed that in a few of my recent favorite outfits, minor adjustments moved my look from “okay” to “spot on. So today I’m sharing a couple of tweaks to help an outfit go from good to great.

First up: my pinkish Pixie pants by Old Navy, via Poshmark.

I found my size in Tall on Poshmark, and, thinking they would offer more length than the ankle length of the classic Pixie pant, bought them. Just as I had hoped, they turned out to be a perfect match for Light Summer, and they were definitely long enough.

Turns out, though, that “Tall” – Old Navy’s designation for women 5’10” and up (I’m not quite that tall) – isn’t just long, it’s bigger in other areas to accommodate the larger frame of tall women:


Definitely giving off a roomy vibe.

I knew I didn’t want that much extra fabric clinging on me in the warm months, which is when I wanted to wear these puppies, so I went hunting for the classic-sized (aka ankle length Pixie pant in the same color, and voilà – I made one tweak in style and they fit just right:


Definitely ankle-length, though. 

(Online thrifting tip: if you want to find the exact color of something you’ve already seen in person, look at one of the tiny tags underneath the big tag and it might tell you the specific color of the item; if not, it will usually note the season and year – e.g. “SPR 17” – which you can then use to cross-check online listings. If the color/season isn’t mentioned in the listing, just message the seller and ask them to check that tiny tag and report back. That’s how I confirmed this second pair was indeed “Life’s a Peach,” a color variously described and photographed as pink, coral, salmon, etc.)

I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with the Talls – sell them on Poshmark (something I’ve yet to try) in order to make back some of the money I’ve spent there? Save them for next winter? (Leggings for those extra cold days would definitely fit under there.) What would you do?

 

The tropical shirt (H&M) in that last photo leads me to my next tweak: pants into cutoffs.

These yellow bootcut jeans from Forever 21 were fun as is, but I was having a hard time finding a way to wear them in the cold months. And because the denim was so floppy (read: not super high quality), they didn’t have much shape down below:

So I chopped ’em, rolled the cuffs, and wore them with that same tropical shirt when the temperature hit 80:

Another quick tweak was to wash the sandals in this pic with a damp cloth. Thus dingy-colored Clarks with nothing else wrong with them became gloriously white (and wearable) once again. I wonder if the person who gave them away was truly tired of them or thought they’d passed the point of no return without realizing a quick clean would have done the trick.

To check whether the dirt on a thrift shoe find is washable (in the store), dab a tiny amount of water from your water bottle onto a spare hankie or tissue and gently rub (don’t do this on suede). I did this in the middle of Savers and was rewarded with the knowledge that these shoes weren’t stained, merely dirty:


Ta-da!

Last but not least, a “tweak” that really comes down to styling.

I found this Metaphor blazer at Restoration Project in a pitch-perfect Light Summer pink and in my sweet spot for blazers – long and lean lapels with a pre-scrunched sleeve for added insouciance:


Yes, I know I just said I didn’t need any more blazers, but I was silently still keeping an eye out for a pink blazer unicorn.

The only problem? It was a size (or two?) too large, at least on the tag. Over a long-sleeved shirt, it felt a bit big in the arms a bit big in the armpits:

…but with armpits reined in, it actually looked pretty good on:

and I was so happy to find a blazer in one of “my” pinks (I had plans; see unicorn comment above) that I bought it anyway. Better a slightly oversized look than a too-tight look, yes?

Here is the execution of the first of my many plans involving this blazer, in which the simple tweak of giving the sleeves an extra couple SCRUNCHES made everything look more fitted/on purpose:


My spouse said this outfit made his head explode. I figure that means it’s just right.

 

Conclusion: just a few small adjustments here and there can make a big difference. What are your favorite thrift tweak success stories?