…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!

 

Can I Wear a Romper?

Last Friday I posted this romper as my upcoming weekend outfit: so comfortable, so cool in the heat.

IMG_1830I posted it on my personal Facebook page with the intro: “I need you to weigh in on the romper/playsuit debate–practical weekend wear or just too much trouble for bathroom breaks?”  I was curious how people felt about this somewhat peculiar garment.

Well, I got what I asked for! Continue reading “Can I Wear a Romper?”

Thrift Finds: Weekend Wear

Lest you think that this week’s sweater post killed summer, here’s something else I thrifted on that trip that I’ll be wearing all weekend (minus church).  The epitome of comfort in hot weather:

Yellow striped cotton romper by Lux.  

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What’s your got-to weekend wear?

 

Heirlooms: Wearing Your Family Treasures

This post isn’t strictly thrift-related since heirlooms are not, by definition, things you found in a thrift store.  Well, you can definitely find someone else’s heirlooms in a thrift store…but you get my point.  However, since part of the reason I started this blog was to foster a greater love of re-using previously owned items–both for their character and as a way to steward our planet’s limited resources–finding ways to wear our heirlooms fits right into that spirit.  

Commenter Sarah mentioned on Monday that she loves to wear clothing and jewelry from her grandma’s closet:

Many are unique and tell a story all their own, and some connect me to fond memories with her. I cherish the style they add to my wardrobe and the conversations I have when they are noticed and appreciated. Most of all, it feels good to have something of hers close to me now and then. 

Sarah hit on something really powerful here: the ability of what we wear to connect us with those we love, whether living or no longer with us.

Grandma in 1939.  A portrait of substance and panache.IMG_1852
Continue reading “Heirlooms: Wearing Your Family Treasures”

Thrift Etiquette

A lit bit of common courtesy towards staff and fellow patrons can make a big difference when shopping.  Thrift stores are no different from retail stores in this respect, although some of the unique aspects of thrifting call for a few tweaks.  Read on for some pointers on how to employ basic thrifting etiquette for an all-around enjoyable shopping experience.

thrifting Continue reading “Thrift Etiquette”

What I Wore: Preachin’

As you may know, one of my jobs includes preaching twice a month at a local church.  Since dresses are the easiest thing for me to throw on on Sunday mornings, it’s a continual struggle to remember to wear something to which the mic pack can attach: pants, a skirt, or at least a belt over my dress.  This week, I succeeded!

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Continue reading “What I Wore: Preachin’”

Thrifted Pants in a Jiffy

Today is the last day of Pants Week on Thriftshop Chic.  Click here for posts from earlier in the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.  Scroll down to the comments section to tell me what you think about a themed week–yea or nay?

My friend Sheena pointed me to this article discussing what goes into a $200 vs. $20 pair of jeans.  The comments are pure gold–okay maybe from a socially conscious style nerd’s perspective, but still: they cover environmental/labor factors, investing in quality vs. cheaper clothes that fall apart, how it’s hard to do that when you don’t have class/wealth privilege, and thrifting to find good jeans. Here’s the comment that sparked this post (let us pause to delight in her username):

Ygritte Snow: Yes. When you are poor, the option is to: a) buy new clothes from a cheap, made-in-china kind of place, whether it’s H&M or Kmart or b) buy used, thrifted denim that may or may not be quality – if you can find a pair that fits you. I tend to try to go for the latter on jeans, because you can find some gems and I like the vintage look and stiffer denim -BUT when you rip through the seat of your only pair of, say, nice pants and need a pair of pants to wear to work TOMORROW because you work with little kids and can’t wear a dress or shorts but also can’t wear jeans because it’s not Friday and you work for a prep school (for barely over minimum wage >_>) sometimes it’s not practical to spend hours finding a pair of pants at a thrift store.

 

Sheena wanted to know what I’d do in this case–you need pants in a jiffy and it seems easier to jaunt over to Old Navy or Target and get you the same pair you always get because they’re cheap and you know they fit.  Can you do the same thing at the thrift store?

guy-ripped-pants-540x390Hee-whoops.

The answer is yes and no.  You can’t just walk into a thrift store and guarantee you’ll find a specific garment in your size because thrift stores, by nature, rely on random donations.  That being said, if you want to give it a shot–maybe the thrift store is actually closer and more convenient than anywhere else you could go, or it’s on the way home from work/daycare (both true for me)–here are some tips:

-Try to avoid being stuck with only one good pair of pants in the first place.  Pants at thrift stores are much less expensive than retail, so stock up!  If you can dedicate an entire thrift visit (or two or three) to pants hunting before emergency strikes, you are likely to find a couple pants that will do nicely for work or play even if they aren’t perfect.  Then be on the lookout during subsequent trips for “upgrades”–pants that better fit your lifestyle needs/style wants.
If you are already down to one pair and don’t have time to thrift backups right this second, keep an eye out for signs that your current pants are on the way out–seam stitches become visible and fabric thins along key seams or well-worn areas; pocket corners start to detach.  Start looking for new pairs as soon as possible after you notice these telltale markers.  And keep a sewing kit handy so that minor fixes like a popped button or dropped hem don’t send you into a pants panic.

Alternatively, if you truly have no time for thrifting but you know which brands/sizes fit and you don’t want/can’t afford to feed the retail economy, consider using a filter on eBay to search for “pre-owned” pants in your preferred brand and size.  Takes almost no time and the pants are delivered right to your door. (Thanks Gillian for the suggestion!)

-Stick to stores with a big selection.  Though I love them dearly for their quirky atmosphere and unique finds, this is not the time to patronize independent/tiny shops with limited selection.  Goodwill has racks upon racks of women’s pants (jeans in particular), as do many Savers, Value Village, Salvation Army, and America’s Thrift stores, among others.  Men’s pants tend to come in a smaller but still wide-ranging collection.

Scan quickly and efficiently.  Don’t flip through every pair of pants on the rack.  Skip over low quality brands (a cheapy tag with cutesy font is a telltale sign, as is really thin or wrinkly material) and sizes that are way outside your range. Look for brands and sizes you know fit you.  Here is where your knowledge of the perfect Old Navy size for your lower half comes in handy–zero in on those if you find ’em, and likewise don’t waste time on a brand you love but a size you know from experience won’t fit.  It can be hard to let go of a pair that’s perfect except for being a size too large or small, but trust me, it’s better this way.  The thrift gods shall yet smile upon you.
Conversely, if you find a brand that looks quality but with which you aren’t personally familiar, be willing to grab a size smaller or larger than your norm as their sizing system may fit you differently.

Try on in bulk.  Load up to the limit allowed in the dressing room–then park your cart outside the stall and, if there isn’t a line, swap out the pairs that don’t work for a new batch without actually exiting the unit.  (If you are really desperate for time I won’t judge you for doing this even if there is a line, although fair warning: the other people in line might.)

Adjust your standards, then Commit.  Conversely to the slow thrift where you don’t nab a piece of clothing ’til you’re satisfied it meets all your criteria, these may not be the world’s ideal pants for you. But if you find a pair that will do — length’s okay, fit’s okay, no holes or other potential wardrobe malfunctions–don’t waste time dithering on whether you *should* buy these pants.  At that price point and with your time as valuable as it is, the answer is yes.

Give (your new) pants a chance.  The unexpected bonus to buying the first pants that fit decently is that you might go home with a pair in a new-to-you pattern, color, or cut–and you might LOVE them.  They might breathe new life into a wardrobe rut where you’ve been stuck, or they might become a new favorite silhouette.  That’s the magic of thrifting!

 

What are your tips for quick-n-dirty pants thrifting?  Scroll down to comment!

 

How to Start Your Own Capsule Wardrobe: Pants

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

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

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

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

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

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