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?

 

Random Bits of Style Goodness – Mary Berry and Norma Kamali

A couple of bits of style goodness for your Tuesday morning.

I’ve been watching two seasons of The Great British Bakeoff (aka The Great British Baking Show on Netflix). I cried at the end of one of them. Just the right mix of interesting (I know nothing about baking), dramatic (the natural drama of “Will this sponge cake set in time?” instead of manufactured interpersonal drama), charming (love the hosts), and stylish – Mary Berry is my new blazer inspiration:

 

She even does moto jackets & bombers:

 
Scarf game = 100.         PS that’s host Mel Giedroyc stuffing pastries into her pocket. Charming, yes?

 

What a badass. She’s 80 and wearing stuff 20-year-old models sport – much of which sold out as soon as she wore it on TV. Here’s a fun read on her style icon status.

And from Norma Kamali (a 70-year-old designer and fashion maven in her own right), in an interview by Garance Doré, speaking about style in the 60s:

“If somebody liked what they put together, it would not be strange for them to wear it for 48 hours…people wouldn’t just change their clothes everyday; if you liked what was happening, maybe you’d add another scarf.”


Source.

Thank you, Norma, for validating my habit of wearing an outfit that works two days in a row – either with a change of shoes or without.

Enjoy your day!

In Which I Try Girlfriend (or Mom?) Jeans

When I was at Restoration Project last month looking for some neutral pants for my Light Summer wardrobe, these pants looked like just the light, lovely color of blue that would light up my new (to me) wardrobe:

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They’re by Gap and they’re labeled “Best Girlfriend Jeans.” Huh?

(This article will help you make as much sense as possible of all the jeans named after relationships in your life. Which is not much, because as the photos included show, what one brand calls a Girlfriend jean is someone else’s Boyfriend jean, etc. I still have no idea what makes jeans borrowed from your best girlfriend better than jeans borrowed from just your regular girlfriend. Le sigh.)

As far as I can tell, what Gap means by Best Girlfriend is jeans with a midrise waist and tapered but not skinny legs, that are rather roomy in the hip/thigh:

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So….Mom Jeans. But cooler. (I think.)

(I should note that depending on the style, I wear two different sizes in Gap jeans and this is the larger one, so the fit might not be designed to be quiiiiite this loose. Yet they were such a dreamy color, and incredibly comfortable – very soft, good stretch – that I decided to branch out, style-wise.)

Mind you, this is only the second pair of jeans I own, the first being skinny jeans (the Paige Skyline – thank you thrift gods), so I feel like quite the cool kid in my slouchy denim. I’ve worn them a couple of ways so far: around the house when I want to look dressed but still want to feel pajama-level comfort, over leggings for some added warmth…

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Distributing ashes outside for 2 hours in Boston in February is cold!

…and on snowy days when I’d rather stay at home and want to bring that comfy feel into the office:

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The transition to New England style is complete.

I actually really dig them with the white button down shirt I wore to get a good picture of them for you – I guess it’s a case of good lighting + colors in the same season really lighting each other up:

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The only negative is that I have to keep yanking them up as they work their way down my derriere – we’re not risking crack territory here, but of course it makes things look slumpier. I’m excited when sweater season is over to pull out a belt and wear them hitched up and styled with button downs and tucked in blouses for a relaxed look that maintains its lines.

Do you sport any Girlfriend/Boyfriend/Mom/Dad/Grandpa/whatever the newest person-related style is? Why or why not, and how do you style them?

 

Personal Color Analysis, Part 2

I was tired of buying clothes in colors that didn’t feel great on me, so I got my colors done – i.e., had a personal color analysis to figure out what colors really light me up. You can read about the analysis here

V. Shopping My Closet

I got home after my personal color analysis appointment and wanted to swatch all my clothes right away – but instead I hung out with my preschooler. :) I haven’t yet finished going through everything, and I’m not great yet at swatching – it takes practice to evaluate all those value/hue/saturation factors at a glance! – but it’s safe to say that I do NOT have a lot of Light Summer colors in my closet.

IMG_20171216_162906_547
Not a lot of these.

Yet in Light Summer’s palette recognized the only purple I have ever thought looked good on me; the brushed, muted metallics I’m drawn to in jewelry and shoes; and the blued green of a favorite dress (long since donated due to pilling). Yay for some sort of color intuition!

Here are the best bets I’ve found for Light Summer clothes already in my closet – apart from the blue sweater which Hope helped me swatch, I’m not 100% sure they all work since I’m still learning to match colors:

IMG_5666 IMG_5671 IMG_3784 IMG_5668 IMG_20180106_095700216 IMG_5568 IMG_5572 IMG_5562 IMG_5593 IMG_5596 IMG_6364 IMG_20171004_180532576 IMG_5678 WP_20170517_12_54_25_Pro IMG_5584 IMG_20171124_150421752

and these shirts, donated for being too small across the shoulders/chest, and these shoes, which I wore holes in – rest in peace!
IMG_5569 IMG_5566 WP_20170512_16_23_30_Pro

and this blazer, which I LOVED but donated because I thought the grey was too cool….smh:
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You’ll notice that almost all my “Light Summer” pieces are warm weather clothes, while pretty much everything in my cold weather wardrobe is from some other season (mostly fall, I think). Katie of Dressed on a Dime posted yesterday about how her wardrobe had strayed from colors she loves that look good on her due to a combination of dressing in “seasonal” colors and neutral-heavey Instagram inspiration…and I am guilty on both counts. Should be fun putting some real color back in my winter wardrobe!

 

VI. Thrifting for Light Summer 

IMG_20171226_130119584Top to bottom: yep; maybe; nope (True Summer, I think)

Given said holes in my wardrobe and, of course, my love of thrifting, I spent a couple days over the holidays training my eye to spot Light Summer colors. Here are a few I found that I didn’t take home (again, remember that lighting, photo settings, and monitor settings will distort each of these to some extent):

An otherwise perfect green J. Crew shirt that was too tight – boo!; not my size, wanh wannnnh; too big with some moth holes:
IMG_20171228_115855943_BURST001 IMG_20180101_164425578 IMG_20171226_130756606

 

And here are some I took home:

IMG_20171228_115654037 IMG_20180101_174619762 IMG_20180101_174959225 IMG_20180101_171053399 IMG_20180101_171303058 IMG_20180101_160146765

Those yellow pants – I die! And those turquoise pants (warm weather, I admit), fit like a DREAM. So chic – they even have little notches in the pant hem. I’ll post better pictures when it’s actually warm out.

Let’s see that grey turtleneck up closer – though this picture is over-exposed, in it you can see that this is chock full of summer-y colors:

IMG_20180106_095312519

And in my own home-made draping attempt, here are two of the sweaters up against my face and a neutral-ish grey background:

IMG_20180110_091617366 (1) IMG_20180110_091549448 (1)

That pink is still a little too hot pink in the pictures…but you get the idea. And yes, I hate cableknits; it’ll serve as a placeholder ’til I find something non-cable-y in an equally glorious blue.

 

VII. Conclusions

I’ve worn color in good doses most of my life; it’s only recently (and largely thanks to Instagram and style bloggers) that I’ve loaded up on neutrals. I’m a little hesitant to wear, say, purple pants with a yellow top; but I am curious to see whether wearing more color brings a little more zip to my days, since many folks who have found “their” colors report a shift in how they feel and how they see themselves.

I’m not going to chuck everything that doesn’t fit my newly discovered season; I have some favorites I suspect I’ll keep no matter what. But I do feel a new permission to let go of things I wasn’t loving that aren’t in my color wheelhouse; and an excitement to go find yellows and greens, berry hues, and maybe even some purples (!) that work since those colors are so absent from my wardrobe.

And I ended up with a few colors I don’t really care for: stoney grays that feel “blah” to me, periwinkle, and a drab-ish yellow.  I’ll put them on the backburner until I’ve built up garments in some of the colors in the palette that I’m more drawn to, then see how I like them when they’re playing with colors they resonate with.

Overall, I’m glad I did it; I feel like the uncertainty I had about what works is gone. I am still a bit nervous to build a wardrobe out of colors I have neglected for so long; but mostly I’m excited, because it means I get to spend a lot of time doing something I love: thrifting.

Thanks for reading along. Let me know if you’ve ever had your colors “done” or wondered what it would be like, or whether you’re a color genius who already knows what looks great on you!

I Got My Colors Done: Personal Color Analysis, Part 1

Happy New Year, y’all! I’ve been busy with the holidays, travel, shoveling out from a cyclone bomb (whatever that means!), and reworking my thrifting game after getting my “colors” done – aka having a personal color analysis. This whole saga is on the long side, so I’ve broken it up into 2 posts with section headings to keep everything digestible. Enjoy!

 

I. Personal Color Analysis

Personal color analysis (PCA) has often been used as a fashion weapon to declare that people (usually women) with certain skin tones, hair or eye colors should or should not wear particular hues. So let’s just get this out of the way: you can wear whatever colors you damn well please.

If you’ve been reading here awhile, you know I’m not interested in following fashion rules just because someone decided that this or that cut, color, or style was flattering on a certain body type, skin color, etc. So often the word “flattering” is just toxic code for body-shaming, and I am not into that.

What I am into is knowing how lines, colors, and styles work so that I can play with them and decide how I want to use them to create a look I like – a look that feels like me.

For awhile now I’ve been wanting to use PCA as a source of knowledge that helps me pick out clothes I love and will wear. Too often I’ve thrifted something I really liked, only to leave it hanging in the closet because the color, actually worn on my body, made me feel blah, weighed down, too serious, or made me look like I hadn’t gotten enough sleep.

You know the feeling?

To figure out where I was going wrong, I started researching personal color analysis. PCA operates on the premise that everyone has certain hues that complement their complexion – and others that clash. It’s not about your mother telling you never to wear yellow (or always to wear blue), but rather finding out which yellows and blues go best with your unique skin, allowing you to make informed decisions about the colors you wear.

In my research I quickly learned that PCA has evolved a lot since the days of Color Me Beautiful. You might remember Color Me Beautiful as the four seasons style model where every blond was a “Spring” or a “Summer” and every person of color was an autumn. (Please. Like everyone with skin less pale than Cruella Deville’s has identical skin tone.)

1432048170-cruella-de-vil-101-dalmatians
Nah.

II. 12 Blueprints

Some PCA systems are still based on the “what color are your skin + hair + eyes?” equation that often slots people into categories that don’t feel like “them.” 12 Blueprints, the PCA system I liked best, has 12 seasons instead of the classic four, and instead of being based on a surface-level equation, it involves meticulous comparison of different colors against your skin to see what value (light to dark), hue (warm to cool), and saturation (grayed out to pure color) light you up. It’s analyzing your skin’s undertone, which is different from, and harder to see than, the more obvious overtone that presents at face value (ahem, pun intended).

Because of my artist sister, I was already familiar with value/hue/saturation, so the color calibration behind this system made total sense to me. If you want to paint snow, you’re not just going to paint it white, you’re going to use lots of different whites with lots of different other colors mixed into them. Why wouldn’t human skin be just as complex, and just as responsive to variations in value/hue/saturation? (My sister would kill me if I didn’t point out that artists don’t say warm/cool; they say “more yellow” or “more blue.” But I digress.)

The other thing that made sense to me about 12 Blueprints’ approach? It insists that you can’t figure out your season from photographs or by description of features, but only in person. Is that frustrating for those of us who just want to look up some online tests and get an answer? Yes. Is it convenient for a PCA system that relies on in-person consultation by a paid analyst? Yep. But it also makes perfect sense. I look completely different in different photographs based on the lighting, time of day, etc., not to mention that cameras capture colors differently, and computer monitors display the exact same image differently based on their hardware and settings.

Plus, I had a hard time finding conclusive results based on online tests that all seemed utterly subjective. 12 Blueprints uses drapes specifically calibrated to help you (and the analyst) figure out if your undertone is cooler/warmer, darker/lighter, etc. So while it does rely on human eyes to make the final call, there’s a systematic series of comparisons to help arrive at that decision.

Some people, by the way, are much better at figuring out the colors that go with their complexions than I am – if you are naturally drawn to certain colors that make you come alive, that make your skin sing – good on you! I’m not so great at it and was done with guessing and wondering. I was also done with spending money (even thrift money) on clothes that just feel “off.”

 

III. Colors by Hope

So I started looking for an analyst, and lo and behold, I found Hope Turner just a few miles away from me. Two things I loved about Hope’s take on PCA: one, if a color you love to wear isn’t part of your “season,” who cares? Wear what makes you happy. Not only do I agree with that, but it let me know she didn’t take this whole thing too seriously. I felt like she wasn’t married to the system for its own sake but uses it because it gets the best results.

And two, Hope acknowledges that PCA as an industry has largely ignored people of color. Part of the reason she decided to learn 12 Blueprints’ method is that it treats people of any and all skin colors as unique individuals who come with their own glorious coloring, making it impossible to lazily slot everyone with brown skin into “autumn” or maaaaaybe “winter.”

A generous gift made it possible for me to book an appointment with Hope, and it was a blast. After chatting about the R2D2 jello mold hanging in her kitchen (a good omen) and making tea, Hope walked me through the basic scales we’d be talking about – the aforementioned value, hue, and saturation. She also walked me through the 12 seasons or tones – Bright Winter, Soft Summer, True Autumn, etc. Then we got to draping.

Draping consists of the analyst flipping back and forth between two large fabric swatches meant to help us decide whether I was more this or that on a particular scale. It’s done in front of a value/hue/saturation neutral grey to eliminate interference from other colors. Hope described what she was looking for – does the person in the mirror look more approachable in this color? More at peace? More outgoing?  Does the drape overwhelm them, cause them to look ill or dull? Does it bring out redness or yellowness in the skin, or does it seem to balance the skin out? Etc.

Seb+PCA1 Scott+True+Winter1
A couple of Hope’s clients with the drapes that work for them – credit.

 

IV. I get draped!

The process was pretty demanding, attention-wise – during a three-hour appointment, we spent the majority of the time draping. That’s a lot of looking at your face and trying to notice very subtle differences! Luckily Hope started off by saying that while she wanted my input and wanted me to see for myself the colors that worked (or didn’t), it was her responsibility to guide the session and to see and interpret subtle nuances she has been trained to analyze. (Each 12 Blueprints analyst does 20 case studies in training and Hope has had many more clients beyond that.)

So I tried to relax and enjoy. Inside, though, I was nervous – was I going to end up with a season whose colors I hated? What if I disagreed with Hope?

Because my skin often looked yellow to me, I figured I was some sort of Spring, one of the “warm” (aka yellow-er) seasons. But I had read enough on the 12 Blueprints website to know that I could very well be wrong. And I had also read enough to know that when someone is surprised by their season, it can take awhile to live into it – to really feel like these colors are “you.” (If you never feel at home in your assigned colors, you were probably mis-analyzed, which luckily doesn’t seem to happen much with the 12 season calibrated drapes approach.)  I could, of course, keep wearing whatever I wanted – but the reason I was doing this was to find out which colors really enhanced my complexion, and I didn’t really want those colors to be colors I disliked – say, icy greys or baby pinks.

Here was the most interesting part of the process – Spring colors looked okay on me (better than pure black/white or the deep tones of winter), but they also made my face look yellow. This didn’t strike me as necessarily bad – I was used to seeing my skin look yellow compared to my husband’s and my kid’s, and even yellow in the mirror – which I read as sort of “healthy tan.”

Turns out, though, that only people whose skin doesn’t fall into the Spring categories look yellow in those colors. When the Summer drapes came around – particularly the Light Summer drapes – the yellow disappeared, the red splotchiness in my skin cleared out, and I was left looking like my skin made sense:

IMG_4685I know I just got done telling you that photographs shouldn’t be relied upon for color analysis, but I hope you get a sense of how evenly harmonious my skin looks against this Light Summer drape. It was certainly obvious in person!

After we eliminated the drapes of all the other seasons (particularly Light Spring and True Summer, which are Light Summer’s next-door neighbors), everything just sort of settled in and glowed with the Light Summer colors:

IMG_20171216_162906_547Decent-ish pic of the colors, taken on my cell phone in fading light. So, you know, don’t take it as a perfect representation.

Hope walked me through what kind of makeup works for Light Summers, and we had a fun makeup application session. (For those who don’t really wear or like makeup, that part is optional – though you might find you like the makeup that actually goes with your face!) I tried a less-orange foundation, though Hope commented that what I usually wear should work because it blends right into the overtone of my skin, which, again, is different from the undertone.  My shimmery, warm, light bronze eyeliner got swapped for slate grey and my coral lipstick switched out for more of a berry color – again, exchanging warmer colors for cooler ones. I was afraid “cooler” colors would look greyed out or pale on me, but then remembered that only people who aren’t Summers look greyed out in the somewhat muted Summer colors.

We took some pictures of me draped in my new colors (see Hope’s Instagram for more), and then Hope gave me my swatch book: 65 colors that harmonize with Light Summer undertones and that can be used to find clothing and makeup that harmonizes, too.  She taught me how to drop the swatchbook onto the sweaters I had brought with me to see whether the colors on the swatchbook and the garment light each other up, or just look like awkward neighbors or mere background.  Spoiler alert: only my scarf and one of the five sweaters I brought along really sang next to my Light Summer colors.

Overall Hope was warm, friendly, professional, able to put me at ease through what could have been a daunting process – and we had FUN! It’s almost magic to watch as you move closer and closer to colors that make your face come alive, and it felt great to finally know not only which clothing colors did that but also why lipstick has never looked right on me and what to do about it. On the drive home I couldn’t stop smiling in the mirror – everything popped!

 

You can read about how I’ve been easing into my new colors and what thrifting is like with a whole new set of criteria here.