Preacher Style

In the comments section of my reader survey, someone asked me to write about this:

“Your evolving style as a preacher AND fashion lover. I’ve always loved clothes but I went through a very conservative ‘modesty’ phase back in the 90’s (think covered up shapeless, long denim dresses) and looked frumpy most of the time. Even my husband didn’t like it. Ugh, what can I say but that I felt convicted at the time. It took many years before I was able to dress myself with freedom. I’m curious about your personal experience :) ”

I love this topic – thanks for asking about something I wouldn’t have thought of writing about on my own!

Let’s start with a story:

One memorable attempt at dressing to preach involved a navy shift dress in something silk-like with half-rolled short sleeves and stripes of color along the bottom – pink, orange, red, green, and white, maybe? – in varying widths.  I felt desperately chic in it, especially since it was a thrift score and thus proved one could dress stylishly secondhand.  I was so enamored of it that I refused to recognize (despite my mom’s warning) that it was too short and wore it to my home church to guest preach.
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My high school French teacher and mentor – Madame, we call her – came to hear me preach, and as folks gathered for worship, I greeted her in the pew before turning around and bending over the next pew to kiss the cheek of one of the elderly church ladies who have loved on me since I was a toddler.  A perilous move, turns out.

Madame shrieked my name (at a moderate volume) and when I turned around, the look on her face was one of complete mortification; though this happened several years ago, I can recall exactly how high her eyebrows shot up.  “Leah, that dress is REALLY short!” she exclaimed. I still wonder exactly how much she saw, but I have never had the guts to inquire.

By then it was too late to do anything about it – the prelude was starting and I was leading most of the service and in any case I didn’t just happen to have a backup dress hanging up in the narthex.  Calling to mind the lesson imparted by another mentor who once chided me for failing to network at an advocacy event because I had felt self-consciously underdressed, wearing flip flops and a billowy summer skirt in a crowd of suits, I took a deep breath and went for it.

But why was this such a problem, you might be thinking, since preaching doesn’t involve turning around and bending over backwards in front of the congregation? (Now THAT’S a visual.)  Well, friends, you have not thought through the logistics of giving a children’s sermon while sitting on the chancel floor in the shortest shift known to humanity and trying to angle your sidesaddled knees such that your confirmation sponsor, jr. high social studies teacher, mother, and the parents of the kids you babysat for years don’t see your underwear, all while wrangling preschoolers who don’t really want to sit still while you tell a story.  Let’s just say I have a lot of sympathy for Lindsay Lohan and anyone else who’s accidentally flashed the paps.

 

Although I have a mad amount of respect for people who dress in a way that expresses their faith, dress has never been a way I’ve expressed my own faith. (This directly correlates to my liberal Christian upbringing and current progressive Christian faith.)   In grad school, when a classmate took on a nine month modesty project – head covered, shoulders covered, knees covered, no makeup, no pants – to see how it affected her sense of self and her relationship with God, I felt no impulse to experiment with the same.

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Me, dressed in shorts to lead worship next to Lauren doing her modesty thing at the time.

Neither has dress ever been a way that spiritual authority figures in my life have tried to moralize or shame me, which does often happen with clothing choices (particularly for girls and women).  For that I am profoundly grateful – in my book shame and religion shouldn’t mix.

That being said, I did grow up with parents who had some ideas about what constituted appropriate church clothes – particularly a mom who was not happy with anything too tight, too short, or too midriff baring.  I chafed against this (literally?) in junior high and high school, but a few years into adulthood I sort of naturally grew out of spaghetti straps and skintight glitter pants, and the memory of my mom’s chastisement softened into helpful parameters: if something pulls, it’s too tight; if something rides up all the time, it’s too short, etc. etc.

As the story above illustrates, though, I didn’t grow out of more “risqué” (my mom’s word) dressing all at once. As I began to dress less casually in my work life, the too-short-shift experience helped redraw the line for me about clothes for leading worship as well.  If it’s cute/trendy/chic but makes me feel distracted from or self-conscious about the task at hand, I’ll save it for the dance floor, not the pulpit.  If it passes the get-on-the-floor-and-play-with-kids test (dress/skirt hems) along with the raise-your-hands-high-to-give-the-benediction test (that one’s for midriffs) and the crouch-down-to-rescue-the-fallen-hymnal test (visible crack for pants), we’re good.

As for level of formality?  I have seen so many people shunned for what they wore (or failed to wear) to worship that I would rather dress down to help people feel welcome than impose rules on what is respectful enough for a house of faith.  I was raised in a wear-your-best-to-church environment, but I’ve also pastored an informal church start and a homeless community, so I learned a long time ago that you can worship God no matter how formal, groomed, or skin-showing you are.

Casual style from my new church plant days:

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I figure God doesn’t really care, but on the flip side, I understand that people do.  A lot of folks were raised to believe that the way you dress for worship shows respect for God. That’s why, practically speaking, I wear a) what makes me feel comfortable and b) what shows general respect for my parishioners’ sensibilities but c) nothing too fancy so as not to make less formally dressed people feel uncomfortable.  (This is also why I breastfed in church but often in the back pew.  I assume not everyone is comfortable with nursing in public.)

Reflecting the surroundings, I started off like this in my current church:

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Until I realized that all the other women in the congregation, save one, wore pants:

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Then we moved to a less formal space:

15590434_678276485677347_6599297226904845813_n+100 points for that mid-sentence facial expression.

On a related tangent, I don’t feel any compulsion to dress a certain way at other events because I am a pastor – if I’m going to work out, or go dancing, or go to the beach, I’ll don what I personally feel comfortable wearing in those situations (which, admittedly, is really not that edgy to begin with).  My spouse once wondered whether we should buy alcohol at a liquor store further from home so we wouldn’t run into our neighbors or seminary classmates – nope.  I’m invested in reminding church members and the world at large that clergy are people, first and foremost – called to a specific ministry, yes, but not necessarily any more pious than anyone else.  And most definitely allowed to express themselves through clothing!

For weddings/ordinations/formal worship services I add the oatmeal-colored robe, cincture (rope around the waist) and a stole:

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Or if I’m marching in the rain, here is the super-chic water-repellent outfit I wear (same stole as above, better view):

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What have been your experiences with spirituality and dress, modest clothing, or shaming around clothes?  If you grew up in a faith tradition or currently participate in one, what are your thoughts on what’s appropriate to wear to worship?  There are such a wide array of opinions and experiences out there – I’d love to hear yours!

 

 

How Are Riding Boots Supposed to Fit?

I’m asking the question in the title because I found tall boots (one of the things on my current thrift list) at Goodwill the other day that were flat, cognac-colored, had gold accents, had toes that were not too pointed and not too rounded, and were leather. (I’d be happy with high quality vegan options but usually anything not leather in the boot section is cheapo Target ware.)  In other words, they were perfect.

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Except.

My image of riding boots includes a fitted shaft:

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But the shaft of these boots was rather wide relatively to the circumference of my calf:

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This pretty quickly turned into a mental battle over whether the “must buy” reaction I had outweighed the less-than-ideal width.  In my experience, saying “yes” to a less-than-ideal find, out of fear that another version won’t crop up, often leads to thrift regret – and wasted $$ when eventually a better find appears.  But with such a rare find, I was finding it hard to say no.

So I made a list:

In the “must buy” column: these babies, made by Coach, retail for $200 but were priced at only $20.  They were also my size, if a little wide in the foot.  I *never* find quality cognac/brown, heel-less boots in my size at thrift stores.

In the “less-than-ideal” column, that wide shaft had me feeling like:

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I admit I don’t pay that much attention to riding boots, having never intentionally shopped for a pair. Can you wear riding boots more loosely and have it look purposeful, avoiding a sloppy or dated feel? Not to be a slave to fashion trends, but there’s a difference between knowingly working a non-trend look and unintentionally invoking 1979 (above).

Surprisingly, the internet has a lot to say about how you can wear your boots, including ample visual evidence that the wide legged look is just as acceptable as the fitted look:

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Source, source, source, source.

Convinced I wouldn’t look completely unhip and clueless, I bought ’em, and promptly wore them the next day:

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Same boots, different Goodwill.

Scratch that one of the thrift list!  Bonus: my spouse thinks they look nice.

 

What do y’all think of the wider shaft?  Any styling tips from those of you who sport riding boots on the regular?  Scroll down to comment!

 

Exploring New Clothing Territory: Vests

This post is about quilted/puffy vests.  Sorry if you got all excited for 90s-era or tuxedo-style numbers!

In college I had a red, slim, quilted vest by Caslon.  I remember it being the first piece of clothing my mom convinced me to spend $50 (!!) of my own money on.  She explained the concept of investing in a quality piece you’ll wear for years – and she was right.  It was quite chic and a great color, and I wore that puppy on the regular for 6 or 7 years, easy:

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College me, posing in said vest at an Olympique Marseille football-watching club in France.  I have no idea what Che is doing there.

I haven’t gone in for quilted vests much since then – mostly because the styles available now tend more toward the sporty (not my style), and it’s hard to find a silhouette that doesn’t add a lot of visual volume.

Indeed, my next vest wasn’t purchased until 2012, when I picked one up last minute from Costco for a family trip to Scandinavia. (Judge away.  I was thrifting 95% of the time but got seduced by the bright, inexpensive clothes at Costco and the idea that you need to buy new/specific clothes for travel. Lies, I tell you, lies!)

And then, ironically, I wore it thrifting at the Salvation Army shop in Oslo:
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What, you don’t thrift on vacation?

It packs down to almost nothing and is filled with down, so it’s a great layering piece. But it’s been stashed in the back of my closet pretty much since 2012.   If I had to say why, it’s – again – because of its rather sporty style and the unfortunate volume added where none is wanted.

Two of my coworkers regularly wear puffy vests and manage to look chic, though. (One thing that appears to help the volume problem is not zipping them up.  Who knew?)  So lately I’ve been kicking around the idea of giving quilted vests another try.  Luckily for me, picking up a vest from Goodwill costs about $5 instead of the $25 at Costco (or the much higher price tag in retail stores).

Here are my two picks:

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Old Navy – thrifted

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Nau – my version is taupe.  This is 850 down and retails for $185!

The liner on this vest is 100% recycled polyester, and the down inside is also re-used.  I love the asymmetrical zipper which takes it a little more in the direction of everyday chic rather than camping chic.

My spouse laughed when he saw the Old Navy one – “You’re still on that leopard print thing, aren’t you?”  Yes, dear, I am.  It is NEVER going out of style, so get used to it!

I know, I know, I just said no more winter clothes – but although I didn’t showcase them in my winter wardrobe post, I did indeed write that proclamation after I’d bought these.  And I’m hoping these babies will help me get more wear out of my existing wardrobe by pairing with my turtlenecks, which I have neglected rather severely this winter.  Additionally, I think the taupe vest will transition quite well to spring, for those days when it’s still a bit chilly but I don’t want a full blazer/coat/thick sweater.

What’s your take on quilted vests – do you wear them or no?  For those who do, any tips for styling them in business casual appropriate ways?  Scroll down to comment!

 

Real French Woman Style: A Case Study

Much has been made of the inimitable French woman’s style and how chic, understated, classic, minimalist, etc. her wardrobe is.  Black features prominently in this depiction, as do basics.  You can Google myriad examples where this is the case, but from the time I’ve spent living in and visiting France (particularly not-Paris), this depiction is a pretty narrow take on “French” style.

Case in point:

The other evening my family attended a community holiday party where a French woman I’d met at the same party the year before was attending with her family.  The husband and their 4 sons wore homemade bowties while their tiny daughter was dressed exactly like Princess Charlotte but with bolder color.  Their children’s given names are gilded with old-fashioned patina – think Bénédicte, Marisol, and Thibault (not their real names, but a good idea of them). In short, they are charming and full of personality.

And the mother of this family?  She was dressed nothing at all like the “typical” French woman:

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(Items recreated below so you can get a better gander)

Let’s start with her top.  Okay, yes, a black base layer, but one that served as a neutral canvas to showcase her other two layers: a dark teal paisley blouse, peasant-ish, topped by a (faux?) fur vest and a multicolored scarf featuring blue, aquamarine, and copper threads.

On the bottom: bootcut jeans which aren’t particularly trendy at the moment (although wider flares are), and Timberland boots with wedges.  Timberland wedges, I tell you!  To top it all off, she had accessorized with a pair of big metallic drop earrings.

Her look was mostly boho, but those Timberland wedges said “street.”  Her look communicated both her unique taste and her complete confidence in wearing things others would never have put together.

(Her hair and makeup, I admit, did look typically “French” – nothing much besides black eyeliner and mascara, plus sideswept gamine bangs in front, with the rest of her hair clipped back in a way that looked like it had taken 2 seconds but was nonetheless full of unstudied elegance.  Am I waxing overly poetic?)

Since the photo is partial, I did some googling to bring you similar (and in the case of the boots and earrings exact) pieces so you can marinate on this combination yourself:

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Honestly, her funky mashup looked more “French,” according to French women I’ve known, than most things I’ve seen in the pages of Vogue.

To wit – here are style snapshots of several French women I know well:

One has a daughter living in America and has a soft spot for her Ralph Lauren navy sweater with the American flag on it. But when a wedding is on the calendar, it’s fascinators and textured silk suits all the way.

Another is an ashram-frequenting, reincarnation-believing goat farmer, and she dresses the part: work pants and boots below, Indian-inspired prints and colors on top.

Another is basically Catherine Deneuve – same age, same coqeuttish preference for dramatic makeup and feminine dresses with flair.

Another lives in Paris but has a villa outside Toulouse and, when there, stuns in a simple caramel-colored sleeveless dress and subtle gold jewelry. (She was the inspiration for the dress in this post.)

Another few dye their hair with henna and don’t appear to pay any special attention to style.

Admittedly I have often felt uncool next to my French counterparts, but I think it has had less to do with their wearing black and moto jackets than it did with a certain confiance en soi that made them seem self-assured.  Thrifting and writing this blog have helped me hone my style to the point where I feel this confidence in my own dressing – although I’m sure I would still see a difference between an American aesthetic vs. a European one.  Something I need to spend more time on to fully articulate, but generally having to do with cleaner lines, a little more quirk, good tailoring, etc.

 

What do you think of our case study’s look?  And what’s your take on the much-touted “French woman style”?  Geographically speaking, where have you been particularly impressed by people’s style, whether it matched the stereotype or not?  Scroll down to comment!

 

Red & Caramel

If you follow me on Instagram – and you should! lots of outfits of the day and delicious thrift finds – you’ll know I’ve gone a little overboard with the red and caramel lately.  (“Caramel” is the name I’ve made up to describe a sort of richer camel.  It’s kind of a honey brown take on tan, if that makes sense – like when caramel has been toasted.)

It started off with these ensembles on the Vivienne Files – particularly the purple sweater/camel pants on the right:

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I LOVED this combination, which surprised me because I had tried several iterations of khaki/tan/light brown pants before and always felt washed out and vaguely 1990s PTA mom in them (mad respect to moms who were on PTA in the 1990s – just lots of beige pants and solid color tops, you remember?).  I thought I was doomed to never wear khaki/tan/beige-ish pants, but then I saw these babies in a more…toasted? take on the color.  Warmer, richer, closer to picking up my hair color than washing out my skin tone.

I didn’t have any purple in my wardrobe so I didn’t feel compelled to recreate the exact look from the Vivienne Files, but a seed was planted.  I started looking for tan/beige-ish pants again – hopeful, though never quite finding the right shade.  Then it occurred to me that I had too many winter pants anyway, and why couldn’t I pick up this color in a top instead?

This first attempt was beautiful in color and in form, but too tight for anything but layering:

wp_20160912_12_59_46_proNo room for lunch!

It was exciting, though, to find the color on the rack and realize I loved it just as much in person as in theory.  It was not too brown (been there, done that); the warm honey tone picked up my hair and made my face pop.

I bided (bid? bode?) my time, and eventually found this merino J. Crew number in November:

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You may recognize it from these previously alluded to Instagram outfits:

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

From that initial success, I went a little crazy.  I picked up a skirt (even though I never wear skirts in winter and stick with just one or two in summer…we’ll see how that goes!), a shirt dress, and then pants:

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Skirt by Merona

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Safari shirt dress by Jones New York

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Velveteen bootcut pants by !iT Jeans

The pants are SO soft, but also appear to be a little on the cheap side, so consider ’em candidates for a thrift upgrade if they don’t hold up.

Also this same color is in the details of this fuzzy polar bear of a sweater paired with the above dress a few weeks back, and indeed, the pants and sweater paired together nicely in my recent cold weather travel wardrobe:

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BAM.  Instant outfit making.

 

I think I was craving some visual warmth in the increasingly short, dark days of winter.  A similar longing for festivity amidst the holidays would also explain the recent uptick in red in my wardrobe:

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on


This blazer might have been paired with my evergreen corduroy pants on Christmas Eve…

Isn’t that just the RIGHT shade of red?  Not too cherry or too burgundy, plays great with cream, grey, and of course, caramel. I’ve even gone back to daydreaming about red ankle boots, but since my true love in that category retails for $100+ and Santa has already come and gone, I think I’m going to keep an eye out for something similar in the thrift store.

I’m feeling good about all the ways to combine these colors with the rest of the staples in my winter wardrobe (navy, cream, grey) and love that they, along with these and these, have brought more color to what was a fairly polar palette.

 

What do you think of these colors – and what would you call the hue I’ve named “caramel”?  Scroll down to comment!

 

My Fantasy Style

And now, a little bit of sparkle leading up to New Year’s Eve…

If I could dress however I wanted, with no limitations due to boring things like jobs, budget, or practicality, I would dress like Luke Spiller, lead singer of The Struts, on stage:

A photo posted by lukestruts (@lukestruts) on

A photo posted by lukestruts (@lukestruts) on

Essentially: lots of gold, lots of sequins, glitter makeup, metallic pleats, and lots of leather.

A photo posted by lukestruts (@lukestruts) on

A photo posted by lukestruts (@lukestruts) on

Please dress me, too, Zandra Rhodes. (She dressed Freddie Mercury and Brian May and her clothing for Luke is discussed in this T Style magazine interview with the singer.)

A photo posted by lukestruts (@lukestruts) on

A photo posted by lukestruts (@lukestruts) on

We are thrifting kindred spirits: “The Struts are regulars at Los Angeles thrift stores when they’re not on tour, where Spiller has developed an eye for picking out the kind of special pieces — like an all-in-one white kimono from Max Mara — that have become his calling card onstage.”

A photo posted by lukestruts (@lukestruts) on

A photo posted by lukestruts (@lukestruts) on

 

This style affinity is how I end up with things like this in my closet:

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And this:

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And regrets about passing up things like this:

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on


The last of which I would rarely (ever?) wear IRL.

I think it’s healthy, though, to keep a little glam in your life, even if just in your imagination… what’s your fantasy style?  Scroll down to comment!

 

Friday ReBlog: When Style Is an Emerald Faux Fur Stole

Last Friday it was a RePodcast, this Friday it’s a ReVideo – what is the world coming to??

Anna of The Anna Edit recently posted a video of winter additions to her capsule(ish) wardrobe.  They’re all retail (shock!) but the reason I wanted to talk about it here is because of how well one of her picks illustrates personal style.  At just about 4:00, Anna explains how she has a “thing for emerald green faux fur” and that she’ll search clothing websites just to see if they have anything featuring it.

(If you don’t want to watch the vid, just go to this post to see the faux fur at the top and in the last pic before the embedded video – but really the best look at it is in the video itself.)

You can argue that emerald(ish) green is a current thing.  And that faux fur is a current thing.  But the two combined are not exactly popping up in every fast fashion store you can think of.  No, this love of emerald faux fur is an Anna thing.  Just something she personally happens to love. You can tell by the way she talks about it: this stole “makes me feel like Queen or something.” (I will leave it up to your discretion whether she means ERII or Freddie Mercury & co.  Personally I think it’s a combination of the two, because wouldn’t that be how you would get a fur stole (ERII) that’s emerald green (Freddie)?)

I think her words signify that this garment has hit her personal style sweet spot.  Which makes me wonder – what are those pieces you just love, not necessarily for a logical or articulate reason – pieces that no one else will be chasing, because they’re based not on trends but on your personal gut feeling?

Off the top of my head, mine are:

Frida Kahlo socks
Plaid statement blazer
Cartonnier blazer
White/gold v-neck sweater
Gold lame short sleeve top
Graphic cardigan
Snakeskin ankle boots
Blue snakeskin blouse
Velvet rose top
Floral sneaks

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These pieces give my outfits a little funk, adding some pep to my step and ensuring that even when I’m wearing something rather “classic,” I don’t just blend into the wallpaper.  I’d love to know what yours are – scroll down to share!

 

PS I guess with all those metallics I really should have bought these:

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

Ah well.

 

The Beauty of a Blank Slate

Over Thanksgiving I talked my spouse into a short stop at the Last Chance Thrift Store in Chamblee on our way home from cat sitting for a friend.  I promised a very short stop, which meant I had to be on my game.  I started with the “designer” racks and found some decent things, but nothing I wanted to try on.

Then I ran over to the kids’ section to grab my kid a coat (pics coming soon).  My final stop was the dress section – usually I skip this when I have a time limit because taking home anything involves a trip to the dressing room.  But something pulled me over, and lo and behold, there was a haul of vintage dresses!  Don’t ignore your spidey thrift sense when it strikes.

Someone must have cleaned out Grandma’s closet:

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A few of them were made in Hawai’i and there were some fabulous patterns.  (I would have gone for the first one – the spring green one with white trim – but it had pretty serious stains.  Wanh wannnnh.)

The one I tried on and bought, though, was solidly devoid of pattern:

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Well, there were pockets:

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Look, y’all know I love me some pattern and print.  But in addition to the summery-ness of all the above dresses, their prints and colors limit the number of ways they can be styled.  This dress, on the other hand – although it’s pretty boringly beige (thanks Spouse for pointing this out) – can be paired with a fantastic range of accessories.

My first choice?  This leopard-print ruana (basically a blanket with a big split down the middle so you can wrap it) passed on to me by my mom, which kept my arms nice and warm despite the dress’ short sleeves:

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I added a DIY necklace to give it a focal point and some funk:

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And capped it off with my snakeprint ankle boots.  (To be honest I think this would look best with riding boots, but since I have yet to thrift those, ankle boots it was.)

Other possibilities?  My snakeskin print blazer instead of the ruana; leggings on the bottom with my bronze snakeskin flats or champagne flats – like this:

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

My navy blazer and navy leggings  would also work great.

I can also put a shirt underneath the dress for chillier days – one of my many turtlenecks, or my leopard print blouse for some fun contrast.

Another great topper – this graphic cardigan:

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

And if I can thrift some nice cognac or dark brown riding boots, I’ll have even more options.

Separates are, by definition, easier to mix and match than one broad swath of fabric (a dress) that is highly patterned.  This is why, as much as I love interesting details – and as much as I would love to be the person styling wild patterns and funky cuts – my most frequently worn dresses are ones that are a single, solid, neutral-ish color.  See, for example, the off-white and blue dresses in the IG pics above.

The color of this dress is about as neutral as is possible to be – and although the neck, the longer sleeves, the pockets, and the below-the-knee length actually give it an interesting almost mod 60s vibe (who knows; maybe it was made then), on its own you could argue it’s kind of basic. But that’s exactly why I’m excited to use it as a blank slate for styling it multiple ways throughout winter, and even into spring.  (I think it’s a wool blend so it probably won’t make it into summer.)

What’s your take on blank, boring-ish slates that make it easier to accessorize vs. stuff with more personality that can be harder to style?  Scroll down to comment!

 

 

What I Wore/How I Styled It: Rainy Day Wherein I Fail at Button Downs Under Sweaters

This is what I wore to church yesterday.  Can you tell it was a rainy day?  (Hence the indoor photos and strong overhead light.)

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Plaid button down by Japna – thrifted
Blue sweater by Loft – thrifted
Blazer by Cartonnier – thrifted
Cream corduroys by Lauren by Ralph Lauren – thrifted new with tags, then tailored from a wide leg to a slim leg
Rain boots – thrifted, no label

I was, in theory, happy with this outfit.  I started it out (in my head) with these rain boots, knowing I would be corralling a small person in mucky, wet weather:

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This is the closest I own to riding boots.  Ha.

I wanted to pick up the pink, the light blue, and the dark navy, and this button down and sweater did the trick:

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My pink/blue marled Cartonnier blazer was the obvious topper.  (And I thought I wouldn’t get a chance to wear it this season – because these ain’t exactly wintry hues.)  Close up on the colors/patterns:

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The cream corduroys provided some nice neutral real estate between all the color and pattern on top and in the boots.  Navy pants would have worked, too.

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So here’s the problem: in theory, I love the idea of a button down underneath a sweater.  It seems so chic – little pops of pattern at the cuffs, neckline, and hem to contrast with a solid (or even not-so-solid) swath of sweater.  And the warmth!

But in reality, this pairing drives me nuts.  The button down never lays properly under the sweater (see all pics above except the first one, which I made my spouse retake for the sake of my vanity).  It looks lumpy and pointy and things pop out in unfortunate places. And even though this plaid shirt is decently long, I’m forever tugging at the hem to make sure it’s peeking sufficiently chic-ly below the sweater.

In short, this combination looks chic on Talbots models and in my head, but NOT on me.  Even this combo had to be pulled and adjusted all day, and flattened for this photo (and some button or other pointy part still looks mysteriously like an errant nipple):

 

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

Enlighten me, readers!  There have to be some of you out there who wear this look with aplomb and nary a stray scrunch.  What’s your secret?  Is my sweater too thin (it’s a thin cotton knit)?  Do I need to wash and dry it to shrink it up a bit or iron it before each wearing to get that smooth look?  Is my button down shirt not long enough or form-fitting enough?  Do you secretly safety pin or tape the whole thing in place??

 

Scroll down to comment – and don’t be afraid to wear rain boots as legit footwear, especially since there are so many fun patterns and chic styles to be found in the thrift store:

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

 

Some Illustrated Styling Tips

Thinking about how I put together an outfit got me ruminating on how I add that final touch to a sartorial ensemble to make it stand out or really pull it all together.  Here’s an illustrated list of a few tricks I use to garnish the drink, as it were.  Comment to add yours!

 

Use jewelry to pick up a color or metal elsewhere in the outfit

Cuff pants for a different/more versatile length, or to give it a casual touch:

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Roll or cuff sleeves to adjust for warmth/show off a bracelet

Roll blazer cuffs once or twice to show off contrasting liner or bracelet.  You can also scrunch ’em up to similar effect

Leave hair down to use it as a contrast color to your outfit (I often wear my hair down with grey for that reason – the yellow tones help warm up the grey):
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Put hair up to highlight a neckline or earrings (or to keep it out of your way):

Part hair in a new place to freshen up a tried-and-true outfit

Untuck the back of your shirt for a casual, cool vibe

Belt your natural waist to bring some interest to a solid color dress or tunic top:
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Scrunch socks to add some volume/texture in the gap between pants hem and ankle boot

Extend cuffs past your topper and roll ’em back once to create drama and contrast between your shirt and your cardigan/blazer

Try out different scarf ties to get shawl/poncho/necklace/collar effects.

 

FYI, Caroline at UnFancy is great at demonstrating simple styling tricks like this.  Nicole of The Spirited Thrifter can teach you how to throw an arm party (she’s also great at layering necklaces which I rarely do), and Dina of Dinatokio models some excellent ringage (as well as chokers).  Susan of Une Femme d’Un Certain Age also does both necklaces and bracelets well. Janice of The Vivienne Files will help you think through coordinating jewelry without making it too matchy. Also visit Susan and Janice for scarf tips, or check out this old favorite video of 25 ways to wear a scarf featuring mindboggling visual logistics.  If you wear a headscarf or a hair wrap, get thee over to Dinatokio NOW.  I have never seen anyone style a hijab so creative-mazingly. She wears hers rather less conservatively than many people, which means a lot of her styles also work for hair/head wraps.

 

What are your favorite styling tips?  Anything new here you’d like to try?  Scroll down to comment!