Monday, October 26, 2015

Slow Fashion October: WORN, and why I care about clothes

This last (I'm a little late with this again; at least I am consistent) week's theme for Slow Fashion October is "WORN," which Karen explains as being about:

heirlooms / second-hand / mending / caring for things / laundering for longevity / design for longevity (bucking trends, quality materials …)

I thought I would pick up on the "second-hand" aspect of the theme.

I think there are a lot of women out there who find that clothes just don't light their fire. Which is honestly awesome. More power to you all: sort out your 'uniform,' wear it with pride and confidence, and go about your important work in the world.

But, the thing is, I really like clothes. I don't mean that I consider myself a fashionable person -- I don't really care about trends and those who do probably give me the side-eye when they see me walking down the street. But I do enjoy the opportunity for creativity that getting dressed represents. I like juxtaposing patterns and colors in an outfit the same way I might in a quilt. I like exploring the way different styles can imply character and narrative in the same way that I like inventing characters in fiction.

And so, though I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of ethically sourced clothing, and the environmental imperatives of minimal (or at least...reasonably sized!) wardrobes made up of items chosen with an eye towards longevity, after a while this all threatens to become a little, well...joyless.

Shopping second-hand can be a solution to this conundrum, I think. It offers an opportunity for low-commitment, low-environmental-impact play. I am always happy when I find wardrobe staples at thrift stores (hello, knee-length denim skirt, and brand-new Breton-striped tunic from J. Crew). But I also like to occasionally relax my rules about what is and isn't "me" a little bit and try something new.

One can go overboard with this; buy anything that appeals to you in some way because "what the hey, it's cheap," and you end up with a mishmash of a closet where it's hard to find the things you truly love. But a little bit of deliberate "I'd like to give this look/item/trend a bash" can be a good strategy. Sometimes you conclude that a particular look doesn't suit you after all, but other times you might discover an enduring element to your style.

While thrifting with my mom during my parents' visit a couple of months ago, I found myself drawn to hippie-like maxi skirts. But I had an inkling that I wanted to wear them in a non-hippie way.

My style is neither "boho" nor preppy/conservative, but I think that sometimes juxtaposing both types of items in an outfit can cancel out or tone down both of those qualities in an interesting way.

So here are two outfits featuring my new maxi skirts, made up entirely of second-hand items. (Sorry for the blurry phone snaps -- this ain't a fashion blog.)

In this warm-weather take on the experiment, the skirt, t-shirt (Ann Taylor LOFT), and wedge sandals (Sofft) are all from thrift stores. The cardigan is by Leifsdottir via Ebay, and the bangle and earrings are both vintage via Etsy.


This second look is entirely from thrift stores (the sweater is by Banana Republic and the gray suede loafers are by Peter Kent, which I gather is a $$$ Italian brand; I paid $5 for them), except for the pearls which belonged to my husband's grandmother.

The implied narrative here is: "Oh this? I found it in a closet at Gran's country house. Would you believe Aunt Phoebe was a hippie in the sixties?"

In truth, I am not sure how long these skirts will remain in my closet, nor how often I will wear them. But in the meantime I'm having a bit of fun. I think I might wear the second outfit above on Thanksgiving!


  1. Thank you for expressing something I've been feeling about minimalism in general. I know it's supposed to be about increasing joy, but...I kinda like some stuff. For me, joy in clothing is more about feel than look, but that dang Kondo got me to pitch a bunch of clothes and then I thought long and hard about what to fill those wardrobe holes with. Which took me to Pinterest for fashion, which I'd never much bothered with. (OK, at all.) And I began to see what you're saying about creative expression. At about the same time, I stumbled on the Already Pretty blog and barked my shins on turning 50, and decided (this summer) that I'm done with trying to look pretty. And look/be so damn nice. I decided I wanted to be just a little bit edgy. So I whacked off my long hair and bought some things I normally wouldn't. And I like it--it being clothes--for the first time in probably ever.

    I like your skirts! And your thinking on thrift store clothing. I just wish we had the kind of prices in Portland that you have in Seattle. No decent $5 shoes here. A while back I was in a Ballard thrift store and I couldn't believe the price difference. I might have to come up this summer just to hit the junk shops. :-)

    1. Rita, I LOVE the idea of edgy you. I am glad you are enjoying yourself, and glad you are taking no guff.

      $5 fancypants shoes are not all that common at our thrift shops, either! I suspect that whoever priced them didn't know that the brand was upscale (I didn't realize when I bought them, either -- I bought them b/c I liked the look, the loafer style was a bit different and intriguing to my ballet-flat-loving self, and they were in good condition). If you do come up for a thrifting expedition, I hope you'll let me be your guide/co-conspirator for part of it at least!

    2. I second "edgy Rita"! Are you going to update the photo of yourself on your blog so we can see your new hairdo? (Asks the person who can't even figure out how to put a photo of herself in the "About" section, and who would be terrified to do so even if she could figure it out...)

    3. Sarah, I would love to go thrifting with you! If I can get up there by myself, I just might take you up on that.

      And Marian, I've thought I should get a new photo up. I just don't have one. And don't know how to take a good selfie. :-)

  2. Well said. And I love the second outfit! I do think it's a bit more on the boho side, which I like in small doses.

    1. Kerry!!! I am so happy to "see" you! I hope you're well. And thank you for the kind words. I guess I like small doses of boho, too -- just as long as it stops before I hit full-on Burning Man hippie. :-)

    2. I've commented a couple of times before, but since I don't have a blog myself I'm still figuring out the sign-in options, so it was semi-anonymously. I'm with you on the boho. I saw a floral-appliqued corduroy jacket in the thrift shop today that was tempting (I don't think it was my size). I thought how much I would have loved that in college - it would probably be too over the top now.

  3. I really like both outfits!

    I have to say I entirely see the creative appeal in the process of mixing fabrics and textures and having your figure be the canvas (so to speak) ... which is kinda sorta at odds with the fact that I profess not to like or care much about clothing! So I feel I have to 'fess up and tell you that my lack of interest in the clothing department is probably 95% a self-protective mechanism. The fact is that I find clothing shopping to be a very demoralizing and oftentimes futile endeavour. Because of what I call my "slimness" (which is actually a euphemism for what many people don't hesitate to bluntly say directly to me ("you're too skinny!")), I nearly always leave empty-handed and filled with feelings of inadequacy.

    Sorry, I guess this is a fairly depressing comment, and maybe TMI, and there's a big part of me that just wants to hit delete and start all over and merely tell you I like your two outfits ... but leaving you thinking I'm one of those people who don't like clothing because of higher ideals kind of sits wrong with me. It reminds me of something I must have come across in my only university English course: the idea that it's rather dishonest to brag about being chaste if you've never been asked.

    1. I'm glad you didn't delete your comment, Marian. The truth, and this probably comes through at least somewhat in my post, is that I feel somewhat defensive about being interested in clothes. In my family culture growing up this was...well, not explicitly frowned upon, but not an option, really. (It's hard to explain, and there's nothing concrete I can point to, but I got the idea that caring about such things was a waste of intellectual energy and also of money. I blame Calvinism!) So, you're not the only one who has a position on this topic that's underlain by insecurity. Thanks for bringing your honesty to the discussion.

      On the topic of euphemistic slimness, I have been there in the past, and it stinks to have your physicality picked apart like that, and honestly the people who are saying those things to you suck. Sorry I'm not sorry about being blunt. I feel confident that you are lovely outside as well as in -- but, of course, easy for me to say.

      But on a lighter note, your quote from English lit class is cracking me up. Very true, in a Jane Austen sort of way.

    2. I did sense some defensiveness/justification on your part, and that was ultimately why I didn't delete the comment. I'm sorry you grew up in such a dour environment; that's very hard on a child, and has long-lasting repercussions :( . I don't think there's anything wrong with caring about one's appearance, and trying to look one's best. (Maybe if one is breaking the bank to do it, or if that's the only thing they ever think about, but clearly, neither applies to you!). It's worth pointing out that I actually care very much about my appearance; if I didn't, I would wear "whatever" with no apologies and no deep-seated/constant fretting about "is this outfit actually emphasizing my slimness?". At times I feel I'm a very superficial person, to still be caring (at 48!) what others think when they look at me!

      It absolutely does stink to have your physicality picked apart! And YES, the people who do it suck! But it's just all that much harder when it's your MIL. Sigh.

      Thank you, Sarah, for all your kind words, and I'm glad you got a kick out of the English lit quote. It's amazing how the gist of that quote can be metaphorically extended to all sorts of situations! It's even been thrown in my face during discussions with my teenage kids about drinking and drugs and partying! Which is a whole other story...

  4. Just saying Hi, having popped over from Mater's blog.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by -- hope you'll stick around! Cheers-

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