Capsule Wardrobe: Pants

It’s Pants Week here at Thriftshop Chic.  Today we take a peek into my pants MVPs (or, well, all my pants, since I try to make all my clothes clothes I love to wear); tomorrow, how to start your own pants capsule.

My wardrobe is in some ways a capsule wardrobe (see here for my inner monologue on the nature of my wardrobe and a discussion of capsule vs. uniform dressing).  This means that I aim to have a limited number of pieces that mostly go together color- and style-wise so that I can put on something I love every morning without having to agonize over whether it “works.”  (I usually decide what to wear in the shower, and I take short showers.)

I’d say I have about equal love for pants and dresses–as well as a healthy flirtation with skirts–but I wear pants the most because they pair with tops to make more outfits than single-note dresses do.  Within a capsule wardrobe, this translates to having a good number of pants, but all of them pairs I wear often and that go with most, or all, of my tops.  I’ll discuss a litte more of the strategy behind rounding out your collection in a minute, but first let’s take a look-see at these beauties (all thrifted) and how I wear them. (Forgive the wrinkles; I’m allergic to ironing and a couple pairs have been living in a drawer since March because it gets warm early here in the South.)

First, the warm-weather pants.

Red cotton tapered pants by Bandolino (my faaaavorites–so comfortable and a signature, yet somehow neutral-ish, color):



I wear these babies with tucked in blouses, with tops that are more tailored, or with tops that are loose-fitting but on the slim side.  The faded red goes with dove grey (as above), navies, whites, off-whites, and blushes quite easily; I imagine it’d go with camel, peach, and others as well.  I always wear these pants with flats–floral sneaks, dress flats, or sandals as above–although they could probably work with an espadrille wedge or a casually-styled heel.


White cotton straight legs by Banana Republic:

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These puppies are true white and therefore SO fresh in summer–and since they’re lined, they work well into September, too, since we’re not really following the rule about no white after Labor Day anymore.  They go with navy, turquoise-y/teal, coral/red, camel, blush, and…just about everything, and although they’re a little loose for a really flowy shirt, they can handle tucked in and loose-but-slim tops like a pro.  I do flats with these as well, although I think they’d look super chic with heels (I just don’t own any!).   If you’re afraid of getting white pants dirty, don’t be–I keep a bucket and some oxygen-based cleaner in my laundry room and spot treat or soak whenever necessary (for me, that’s about every other wear).


Navy slim Tahari pants from Monday’s post:

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These are on the slimmer side–it does NOT look like it in these pictures, I realize, but the hips and thighs definitely bring it in more than my other warm weather pants, allowing for pairing with some looser tops.  In navy they can handle all my red/blush/white/turquoise/teal/camel tops.  (Pro tip: navy is a GREAT dark neutral if black is too harsh for your skin tone or your taste. *raises hand*)  These are also cut a little shorter so wedges (ha, ^^that’s my idea of wedge!) and heels are perfect pairings.


Medium weather pants

Navy polyester Loft trousers (Marisa “straight” cut):

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These are much looser in cut than the first 3 contestants.  They drape in a trouser-y way–“trousers” to me spell fitted in the rear but relaxed down the leg, which these are.  To balance out that drape, tailored or tucked-in tops are my go-to pairing.  They aren’t lined but they are polyester, which means they don’t breathe as well; temp-wise, I actually have been wearing these recently because our office is air-conditioned, but I pay for it when I venture outside for more than 5 mintues.  Shoes-wise, I think they go best with sneaks or dress flats but forgot to make the change for the photo. Their drape means they would probably accommodate boots, and they definitely have enough room for big thick knee socks come winter.


Cotton Glen plaid men’s pants from Zara:

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These are indeed men’s pants; they were mis-organized in the women’s section and I benefited from the happy circumstance! They are nice and light but somehow don’t make it into my summer wardrobe…probably because the plaid makes me think of fall.  The plaid has black and brown stripes, and the piping near the waist is a velvety brown; yet the overall effect of the plaid is a light grey, so they work as a neutral and wear well with black or brown shoes & belts.  As a men’s-cut pant they have a higher waist and looser pelvic area, so I tend to wear them with closer-fitting tops.  Also, these pants helped me discover that men’s pockets are GINORMOUS.  It feels like my entire forearm has been swallowed by the pocket on the right, whereas women’s pockets are pathetic excuses for holding a chapstick (or they’re non-existent).  Harrumph!


Denim grey sailor pants from Old Navy:

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I found these beauts in a thrift store somewhere in…Alabama?  Mississippi? and knew they had to be mine.  As you have probably deduced, they are way different from my typical cut, but I love the variety they bring to my wardrobe–I like to think they add a little unexpected sass.  The sailor-style buttons are really kind to my mid-section and work best with tops that are fitted or straight but slim and that don’t venture too far below the waist–who wants to hide those glorious buttons??  The legs would probably work better with heels or substantial boots, but as I am an avowed afficianado of flats (learned from my mom who’s still paying for wearing heels for most of the 60s and 70s), I just make it work.  The soft grey goes with my warm-toned sweaters and long-sleeved shirts as well as navy, blush, and winter whites.


Cold weather pants

Brown tweed trousers by Bebe:

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These are my only truly cold-weather pants–tweed and lined–which is just fine for Hotlanta, but I wish I could wear them all year round.  The trousery-flare cut (don’t you love that jaunty little break in the right-hand photo?) is divine and I can.not.handle the piping on the pockets and waist (closeups once the weather cools down…November??).  That piping highlights an area that is very kind to my rear and mid-section, and the tweed camouflages some spots that are starting to wear.  I grabbed them out of a headed-to-donation-land pile at work 7 or 8 years ago and they always make me feel great when I put them on–a true sign of something that’s earned a place in your edited wardrobe.  They work best with fitted or straight-but-slim tops, and dress flats or delicious brown leather boots (my black and grey thrifted cowboy boots clash, sadly).


Jeans — Forever 21 slim


These go with everything.  No, seriously.




So if you were reading closely, you noticed that although the cuts of my pants span the spectrum, pants within similar seasons tend to jive with the same type of tops so that I’m not limited to wearing the same pant/top one-hit-wonder combo over and over–e.g. I’m not stuck wearing a peplum shirt with my only pair of skinny pants because it looks odd with all my straight cuts.  (The slimmer navy pants are a newly acquired departure from this model, but so far I’ve been wearing them with tops I already own that usually get tucked into looser pants; thus I’m expanding, not limiting, my options within what I already own.)

Following the principle of slow style, it’s taken me two or three years to build these pants together into a roster that covers all my bases (baseball pun intended).  I made it work for a long time on just the colder weather pants and the red pants, but this season I decided that I wanted to wear pants more in the summer.  Although I spent a few years with some unsatisfactory white jeans (didn’t wash clean, too tight in the waist, loved rolling the cuffs but not their flare style), this time I nailed the white pants on my first thrifting trip out.  Carried away by my thrifting good fortune, on that same trip I misfired on some olive pants (uncomfortable, not versatile enough), and I took my sweet time finding both pairs of navy pants (as chronicled here).

Assembling your pants lineup takes time whether you retail it or go the thrift route–you have to live in different styles, realize some are too uncomfortable or restricting for your everyday life, try out colors, etc.  But once you get your team* together, it feels so good to own only pants you love and wear ALL the pants you own.


Was this helpful?  Are there any pants you would trash or treasure yourself?

Looking to build your own thrifted pants capsule?  Check back tomorrow for how to get started!



*I apologize for all the bad sports metaphors in this post.



6 thoughts on “Capsule Wardrobe: Pants

  1. This is a great blog!! I thought I was the only thrift-obsessed person out there, so it’s nice to see these posts.

    I only thrift pants now (no longer buy them retail), as I can get much better quality in the thrift store for much less money. Also, it pushes me to try things I wouldn’t normally try on, and makes my wardrobe more interesting. Best recent find: a brand-new pair of German designer pants with the $350 price tag still on, for $15. (In NY most of the thrifting is more expensive, but there are more frequent sightings of brand new, high quality clothes than the last place I lived, so it’s a tradeoff.)

    1. Ginna, (sorry, spelled it wrong the first time!)
      Thanks so much for commenting! You are DEFINITELY not the only thrift-obsessed person out there…solidarity!
      I love finding good stuff for small price tags–found a Free People huge chunky cardigan for $6 at Goodwill the other day. And yes, NY has more expensive prices but definitely a better selection. I was thrilled 6 or 7 years ago when, on a trip to NYC, I got to peruse the Goodwill–some delicious finds.
      And I agree–thrifting is not only nicer on your wallet, it lets you play and be more creative! Let me know if there are any specific posts/topics you’d like me to cover, and thanks again for stopping by!

  2. I love your blog. Being plus size I don’t thrift for clothes any, because clothes are hard enough for me to find. I am loving your detail clothes info though! I am also so jealous of your pants variety. I had for the longest time jeans and work pants. One of my stores finally have pants I can wear with a better waist and I have several style jeans – somewhere in this house. Other pants it’s still just black pants for a interview/professional job.

    1. Kim,
      Check out my Instagram sidebar for some plus-sized options found at thrift stores. I agree, they are harder to find (unless like my sister you live near a specifically plus-sized thrift store–what?!?), but there are some good finds if you know how to look. Shoes, bags, scarves, and other accessories are also good thrifting bets no matter your size.
      Yay for stores stocking clothes that actually work! If you don’t need a variety of pants for work it can be fun to do different jeans styles…I’m the exact opposite since I wear a lot of different pants to work and exactly one pair of jeans on the weekends :)
      Thanks for commenting!

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