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:


And this:


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!


New (to me) Pumas!

This has been a rough week in America. When things get tough it can be nice to think about something fun and lighthearted like thrifting – but the last few days it’s felt odd to visit a favorite site and not even see the election mentioned. So I want to acknowledge the pain and grief and division in my country. I am convinced that the way forward lies in listening to one another and in working every day for a more just and compassionate community, country, and world. That ain’t easy but that’s why we have each other – and thrifting, for the days when it’s really hard and you just need a rack of obscene polyester jumpsuits to make you smile. Now back to regularly scheduled programming.


I first fell in love with 70s-style sneakers the year I lived in Europe during college.  The market near my apartment had all the great foodstuffs you’d imagine, but what I kept being drawn to was a table full of shoes I associated with a very European (read: nonchalant, utterly cool) style. They looked almost like soccer (football) cleats – minus the cleats of course – and they were just so different from anyt hing I’d seen on American feet in my lifetime, somehow dressed down and chic at the same time. The pair that caught my eye was a subtle gold (is it possible to be subtly gold? with shoes?) and I lusted over them for quite awhile.

Kind of like these but with more logos/contrast happening.  Source

I never pulled the trigger on that gold pair – I was a poor student who needed to afford things like wine and Nutella. But I kept an eye out for similar styles and eventually bought a more reasonably priced pair of Pumas in a two-toned lavender that was muted enough to read like a neutral.  The rounded toe and sloping upper recalled what I had loved about the styling of the gold pair – very understated and a bit retro:

Not my personal pair, but this exact model. Love that color! Source.

When the lavenders finally gave out, I found another pair at the Salvation Army in mint condition (!) – suede chocolate brown with camel stripes and coral piping.  I wore the heck out of those things and eventually the piping started to come undone and the stripes were pretty dingy:



I probably would have taken this last pair to a cobbler to get cleaned/repaired, but by that point brown had transitioned completely out of my wardrobe and I wanted something that would play better with the rest of my wardrobe, so I donated them in the hopes that someone else might see their potential and fix them up.

Thus, as you may recall, I added to my thrift list a pair of cold-weather sneakers: specifically Pumas since the previous two pairs have worn well and are super comfy – hello, arch support! – and specifically grey or another neutral that would play well with my fall/winter color palette.

I looked all summer and into the fall with no success – all I found were running shoes and canvas sneaks with no cushion.  More than once I was tempted to just buy something close-ish and make do, but my inner thrift conscience reminded me that I usually regret it when I don’t hold out for just the right item.

And then, lo and behold, last week I stumbled on these beauties in my size, with little wear, and featuring a color combo that couldn’t have been more perfect – blue, cream, and a touch of gold:

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The arch support when I put them on was like a chorus of angels singing.  They’re a little wide for my narrow, narrow feet, but that’s the beauty of lace-up sneaks – you can secure ’em to the narrowest of feet.

Just looking down at that little gold puma on the heel makes me happy:



What’s your favorite kind of sneaker?  When have you held out for the perfect thrift find and been rewarded accordingly?  What thrift find are you currently trying to stay strong on and not give in for a lesser version?  Scroll down to share!


DIY: In Which I Paint More Shoes

Blog readers who’ve been around since last summer may recall the teak Trotters flats, courtesy of my mother-in-law, which I stripped and repainted champagne.  Well that lovely woman’s feet are the gift that keeps on giving, because as they spread out a bit, she can no longer fit in narrow shoes and she passes them on to moi!

Thus I was the lucky recipient of these Sebago boat shoes, again in a dark tan color:


They were practically brand new, and if I had a lot of brown (any brown?) in my wardrobe I would have left ’em as is.  But since my neutral colors tend towards grey and navy, I decided to redo these in a nice soft grey.

I followed the same steps as in my first shoe repainting foray, taking my own advice to use a higher quality brush this time around:



First I took the raw hide laces out of the first few holes so I’d have easy access to the tongue and some of the side parts.  I accidentally went one hole too far – I’m going to have to use a needle and string to rethread that puppy because it was originally enclosed between two layers of the shoe in an inaccessible area.  Pro tip if you’re working with shoes like this: check how far you can delace BEFORE yanking out the laces.

Then I got out my bottle of Angelus leather preparer and deglazer, left over from last time:


I’d say one bottle covers two pairs of shoes (flats, that is – size 10).

I used an old toothbrush to scrub off the original color.  Similarly to nail polish remover, once your chosen implement (paper towels, rag, toothbrush) has saturated with color, it won’t remove any more pigment.  This means I did a lot of little dips into the deglazer followed by good scrubbing in a small area, and then wiped the removed color on an old rag:


It was pretty hard to tell the difference between areas where color remained vs. areas that had been saturated by the leather deglazer.  Eventually I figured out that if I wasn’t sure, I could just brush the area and wipe it on the rag; if color came off onto the rag, there was still original pigment there and I needed to keep working.  It was pretty much impossible to keep the original color from staining the white contrast stitching, and I knew it would be impossible to keep from painting it later, so I decided early on that the contrast would just go grey like the rest of the shoe.

Color starting to come off – the waterproof coating took some elbow grease to remove.  You can also see how the contrast stitching is starting to dye:


Color removed on the right, not on the left: img_4483


After I was satisfied that I had gotten most of the color off, I let them dry in the sun for about 20 minutes:

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Next, the new color!

As with last time, with each new dip in the paint I began with the stitching, raw edges, or seams that would need a lot of paint to saturate, then spread the excess out over smoother surfaces.  Direction of the brushstrokes didn’t seem to matter as much this time; after one coat I couldn’t tell which way I had painted.  This led me to let my toddler help me paint the second coat on one of the shoes, a move my spouse called “brave”; but honestly, look for yourself at the end – can YOU tell the difference?  (I will have to use a little deglazer to get some overenthusiastic brush marks off the sole…)

I also decided to paint the grommets because it was too dang hard to paint super carefully around them without getting paint on them as well.  If I had more patience and had used a fine angle brush, I probably could have made it work.

I chose Angelus leather paint in Cement/Grey White, hoping for a muted grey that would jive with my wardrobe palette.  Here’s how it looks on the first coat:

img_4486 img_4487

A little more blue than I would like, but I was hoping that wouldn’t be obvious after a second coat.

Between coats I let dry in the sun for an hour or so.  Did I mention how lovely it was to do this outside in the warm October sun?  (But watch out for falling leaves as your paint dries.)

And here’s the final product after the second/last coat of paint: what do you think?  I’m excited to wear them after a full 24 hours of drying (just to be sure) and a rethreading of that one lace.



This project, by the way, cost me about $3 (paint) and would cost you about $10 if you had to buy the deglazer and brush as well.  Not bad for a weekend afternoon!


Fall Bag

Confession: I’m not a big purse person.  When my mother tried to get me to use purses in high school, college, etc., I refused–I didn’t need to carry around a bunch of STUFF.  MEN don’t need purses.  And anyways, I have a backpack for the big stuff and pockets for the small stuff.  Pphhhht.

Fast forward 10-15 years and all of the sudden I look down and WHAT IS THIS THING DANGLING AT MY SIDE like some sort of PERMANENT GROWTH?!

Oh, it’s a purse.  (I still call it a bag, though—purse sounds like…my grandma?) (P.S. Mom is always eventually right about stuff like this.)

What changed?  A messenger-style bag had me covered for grad school and a chaplaincy residency where I needed to transport lots of paperwork.  My next job had less paper but still required space for keys, phone, wallet, pens, etc. and you know most pockets in women’s professional wear are a pitiful place to try to carry more than chapstick. (Not to mention it’s rare that skirts and dresses, if those are your thing, even HAVE pockets.  Because why would women need functional, practical garments?  Sexism, bah.)

Said job also had a classy sartorial vibe so I figured it deserved better than a logo messenger bag I got for free at some conference.  Enter purse number one:IMG_1692

You may recall that it bit the dust at the beginning of the summer after a good solid year of use. Not bad for a previously-owned PVC-covered bag (you didn’t think that was real lizard, did you?).  But also not great—PVC wears easily and I tend to be hard on my workhorse possessions, much to my Yankee husband’s possession-protecting sensibilities.  Ideally I’d like a bag that carries me through more than 12 months.

To replace this first bag, I went for a seasonal number in a similar style but with lighter colors, less PVC to tear, and more room to hold summer accoutrement:

I have thoroughly enjoyed this bag and plan to break it out again next summer.  Its cotton weave is easy to clean; that casual fabric + gold = the perfect classy summer vibe.  But again, quality-wise it’s not a long-term bag, and the color scheme and fabric are definitely not a great fit for fall.  Also, its generous size meant I was piling all sorts of stuff into it without regard for my poor shoulders, which were starting to complain.

So I went looking, over the course of 2 or 3 thrifting excursions, for a bag in long-lasting leather, a more manageable size, and a nice cooler-weather color. I also wanted something without big labels (I’d rather draw attention to my personality than a brand) or a lot of doodads that end up looking dated.

Voilà, my new (to me) fall bag, by Nine West (and a glass of wine, lovingly referred to in our house, along with coffee, as “Mama juice”–thanks Linds!):


Inside dividing pocket keeps things a lot more organized than my previous catch-all:IMG_2396

You can also see it featured in some of my Instagram photos on the sidebar over here–> (Click “load more” to see extra pics.)

I like the clean lines and the way it warms up my fall outfits without shouting too loudly or being too trendy.  That’s part of why thrifting is great—the random assortment of treasures at any given thrift store means you never have to sport the same trapezoid-with-tassles or slouchy satchel as everyone else.  Relatedly, if you don’t LOVE cognac or marsala or whatever this season’s Pantone colors are, you can find YOUR colors through donations from seasons past.


What are your feelings on purses?  Would you thrift one?  If you eschew buying new leather for ethical reasons, would you thrift it instead?  What do you think of my find??

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