I Don’t Have a Perfect Wardrobe

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

What I Wore: What I Didn’t Wear

This week I’m cleaning out my closet based on what I’ve worn–or not–this summer. I like to edit my clothes at the end of the season so that a realistic view of my repertoire is fresh in my mind and I’m not tempted by pie-in-the-sky possibility: “Well, I didn’t wear that last year but maybe it’ll find new life this year….” Sometimes I do keep an under-used gem to give it a second chance to shine, either because my style has evolved or I’ve just gotten a little more creative. But for the most part, being honest about how often I’ve actually worn something in the very recent past is the surest path to creating a closet of clothes I love to wear.

Check back tomorrow and the rest of the week for what made the cut and what’s getting donated.  Here’s a sneak peek–you tell me if it’s a keeper or not!

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Ask Me a Question!

A friend posted on my Facebook page this week asking for thrift styling advice.  She mentioned it would be great to have an “Ask Leah” feature where readers could send in queries re: thrift store strategy and thrifting dilemmas, how to style your thrift finds, how to make the most of your closet on a budget… anything to do with thrifted style!

Ask me a question! (3)

 

So send me an email at leah at thriftshopchic dot com and I very well may feature your question in a post.  Pictures happily accepted but not necessary.

 

Happy Weekend already–is it just me or has this week been a looooong one??

 

Buyer Beware: Wardrobe Exponents

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

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

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

Continue reading “Buyer Beware: Wardrobe Exponents”

Thrift DIY: Replacing a Lost Button

On Tuesday we rehabbed the spouse’s closet.  You may remember we ended up with a few shirts that were button-deficient:

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Here are some simple, photo- or video-illustrated, button-restoring tutorials to get your beloved shirt/pant back to its well-deserved spot in your closet of things you love to wear!

How to Sew on a Button: Instructables (includes flat & shank buttons)

Two Easy Ways to Sew a Button: Wiki-how (includes 2-hole and 4-hole)

How to Sew a Button Quickly and Correctly: Art of Manliness

Video: How to Sew a Button on Dress Pants

 

Ta-da: slightly different thread color, but no one (but y’all) will know!
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Since the regular-sized replacement button had mysteriously disappeared, I had to use the large button from the neck for the shirt front and swap in the tiny replacement button at the neck:IMG_1878

(Yes, my spouse knows how to replace buttons, but since I was going to use this for a blog post I did it myself. :) )

Get amongst this easy fix, Thrifters, and get back to wearing your favorite clothes!

-Leah

 

Closet Rehab: Spouse Edition

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

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

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

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

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Continue reading “Closet Rehab: Spouse Edition”

Amazon: Another Good Reason to Thrift

Did y’all see last weekend’s scathing portrait of Amazon’s workplace culture in the New York Times?  It’s a fascinating and stomach-turning read detailing crying at one’s desk as a regular occurrence, marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving Day, confidential hotlines where you can “evaluate” your coworkers without them ever getting to face their accuser, and being put on “performance review” status immediately after returning from maternity leave or cancer treatment.  Basically it’s a no-holds-barred approach to creating and implementing profitable ideas–extreme capitalism with nary a nod to the well-being of one’s workforce.

In the work-life balance conversation, I lean decidedly towards a “work to live,” not “live to work,” approach.  Reading this article made me really uncomfortable about continuing to patronize Amazon–the convenience and competitive pricing are seductive, for sure, but once you have a mental picture of a woman spending her entire vacation at a Starbucks answering work emails or a dad being told to spend even less time with his kids or coworkers conspiring to throw each other under the bus lest they themselves be culled, it’s hard to get it out of your head.  I’d rather pay more or wait longer for my goods than support that kind of workplace culture.

How does this relate to thrifting?  If you are in the habit of shopping for clothing through Amazon, this article will make you think twice–and hopefully thrice–about continuing to do so.  As an alternative, look into your local thrift store’s work climate.  You can tell a lot, although not all, by just shopping there and paying attention to how employees are treated by supervisors.  Ask for an appointment with the manager or research the store online.  See how well it aligns with your values* and shop accordingly.

 

What are your thoughts, Thrifters?  And please point us in the direction of decent alternatives to Amazon!  To get the ball rolling: Netflix’s recent decision to provide unlimited paid parental leave over the course of a year to either mothers or fathers.  It does not cover non-salaried employees, but it’s a start. (FYI: we do not pay for or use a Netflix account.)

 

*I’m planning to look into Goodwill of North Georgia’s labor practices, since Goodwills often pay disabled workers less through the Federal Labor Standards Act–controversial legislation dating from the 1930s that allows businesses to pay disabled adults, who might otherwise not have the opportunity for paid work, under minimum wage.

Thrift Finds: Skirt Upgrade

Last week I finished early at work and my spouse was all, “Go have some you time, I’ll pick up the kid.”

Say no more–thrift store here I come!*

When time is limited, I find it’s best to choose one or two items to keep in your sights in order to minimize distractions/feeling overwhelmed.  My objective this trip?  I’ve had this navy Anne Klein skirt for a minute, and while I love how it goes with eeeeeverything in my closet, I do NOT love its broken zipper, the funky little speedbump at the waistband, or how stiff the fabric is–it’s a little hard to walk in.  So through my last several thrifting excursions, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a thrift upgrade that would zip properly, move fluidly, and lay a little better on my bod.

Thrifting an upgrade means you can:

1) Get something now that works, and
2) Get something later that wows

all without breaking the bank.

Here’s where I started: yes this zips all the way, but only after much wrestling and a few bad words:IMG_1931 Continue reading “Thrift Finds: Skirt Upgrade”

…and Can I Wear a Jumpsuit?

Amidst the epic recent romper conversation on Facebook, we somehow transitioned into talking about jumpsuits: they appear to draw less direct sartorial inspiration from toddlers, so are they “okay”?  In the course of the discussion, two folks weighed in saying that jumpsuits are fine if you are of “a very specific body type” or “as long as you are slim.”

My first thought was that they just hadn’t seen the right jumpsuits on the right women.  My friend Sheena’s curves look magnificent in a jumpsuit–in fact, her lavender get-up at a brunch engagement party last year sold me on the whole idea of jumpsuits:
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Photo courtesy of Sheena–yowza!

And one of my favorite style bloggers, Alison Gary, rocks a mean jumpsuit and gives tips on how to find ones that work for larger bodies and allow fuss-free bathroom visits:
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But as with the romper conversation, what most intrigued me about my friends’ comments was what lay underneath them: the implication that some clothing styles are limited to women of “a very specific body type”–i.e., the current societal ideal of tall and slim (to the point of skinny).  The bodies we see modeling clothes, makeup, and, well, everything.  Bodies that are fine in and of themselves but, when taken in the concentrated doses we receive as consumers of media, are not representative of the range of female physiques nor affirming of the beauty of those different physiques.

I grew up, of course, surrounded by those media ideals. I also grew up with a stylish mom who gave me her eye for putting together an outfit and, inadvertently, passed on a subtle variation of those damaging standards: choosing clothing that “flatters” one’s body type.

“Flattering” doesn’t seem all that worrisome in a culture bent on more explicit body-shaming; in fact, knowing what clothing flatters you is often touted as the key to loving your body as it is.  “Dressing for your body type” is supposed to help empower you and give you the confidence that you are taking advantage of your body’s assets, whatever they are.  But listen to this conversation overheard by Anuschka at into mind as she next to a group of 12- and 13-year-olds on the train:

One of them wanted to buy a new pair of jeans and she talked about what kind she might want to get. “I don’t like high-waisted jeans but I have to wear them because I’m a pear shape. They are just so uncomfortable”, she said. “Just make sure you get black or dark blue ones to make your legs look smaller. And wear that with something white on top to balance it out”, said one of the other girls. “I wish I was an apple. That way I couldn’t wear tight tops, but at least I could wear dresses and short shorts. That’s good for the summer.” They all agreed.

That’s what the concept of dressing for your body type/to highlight your assets and disguise your flaws does to young women (and, I’m sure, young men).

When I think about how flattery/dressing for my body type has shaped the silhouettes towards which I gravitate and how I look at clothes on the thrift store rack, I see how the concept quietly but insistently reinforces my body as a bunch of piecemeal components, each with a negative or positive value depending on how it matches up to the aforementioned social ideals: this highlights my waist (good), this accentuates my belly (bad), this is cute but it gives me a bunch of extra width in the hips (bad).

But as a feminist, as a pastor, I want to claim my body as a whole, as ALL good–as inherently beautiful and deeply useful and even as a source of delight, a playground for fashion and self-expression (amongst other things.  Ahem).  And I want you to be able to do the same.  Because it ticks me off when we say certain styles are only for certain people.  Obviously the fashion industry has a bias toward very, very skinny models and makes clothing accordingly; but especially as clothing retailers begin to wake up and make more clothing for larger body sizes, it’s only our acquiescence to objectifying social norms that bar women from wearing styles they love. And that ain’t cool.

So I guess the title of this post is a bit mis-leading–the only thing that should be dictating whether you “can” wear a particular style or item of clothing is whether you like it.  (And, I suppose, how difficult it is for you to use the bathroom in it.)

Simple concept.  Revolutionary when you embrace it.

 

Is this re-definition of flattery as mind-blowing to you as it was to me?  Does the idea of flattery/dressing for your body type feel helpful or restrictive?  Do you base your look on what you love, or what you’ve been told looks good on you? Scroll down to join the conversation!

Read more at into mind’s great post on this subject. And thanks to Sheena and my other FB conversation partners for stirring up the waters on this one!