19 May 2010

The Thrifting Uniform

After a month of avoiding shopping for myself (with one or two exceptions when I encountered a demand my closet couldn't meet or was faced with a unique opportunity), it's over. International Fluevog Day has come and gone, and I am the proud owner of these beauties:

Fluevog shoes, Dollface, red
John Fluevog, "Mini: Dollface"

and, more to the point, I am free to return to my local thrift stores. Hooray! I'm particularly excited because a spate of weekend closet-organizing revealed that I have -wait for it - eight black summer-weight skirts, and virtually no other bottoms fit for hot weather. While I love my black clothes (obvs!), I feel like I need a little variety in my wardrobe, if only so as not to bore you to death, Fabulous Readers. Or myself.

today's outfit, thrifting uniform, leggings, skirt, sweater vest, tee, belt

I've spoken in passing about my thrifting uniform before. As long as I'm basking in my return to active consumerism, I might as well go into it in a little depth. I've come up with this loose uniform, which combines utility and presentability, to make my life easier when I'm trawling the racks of my local Goodwill (or anywhere else, really) for sartorial treasures.

Here's the breakdown:

outfit by the numbers
  1. Leggings: Not every thrift store has adequate (or even any) changing rooms. By wearing leggings, I can slip on skirts and pants in an out-of-the-way corner without showing the other shoppers more of my anatomy than they want to see. They also form a physical barrier between my body and any potential nastiness lurking on clothes of questionable provenance.
  2. Short skirt:  Leggings might protect my modesty (eek!) in a questionable changing-room situation, but they're not the most flattering thing on their own. I cover up with a skirt that can slip up or down over my hips: I can ruck it up around my waist if I have to try something on in the aisles. (Old Navy, remixed)
  3. Small bag with shoulder strap: I'm usually an aficionado of big bags - really big bags. I consider something sized to hold a letter-sized portfolio to be on the small side, and my larger bags double as luggage. However, the narrow, usually poorly-straightened aisles of a thrift store are not the place for a bag of epic proportions: it'll get caught on protruding hangers, stuck, and generally make a nuisance of itself. I prefer smaller bags like this vintage Coach Willis for thrifting expeditions. Not only is it small enough to not get in the way, it's got a long strap, so I can sling it over my shoulder or even across my body and have both hands free for sorting through racks, rescuing clothes about to take kamikaze dives off hangers, and haul my selections.
  4. Second-skin top layer: This silk knit tee from Reyen Design Studios serves the same function as the leggings, but for my upper body. It's thin enough not to affect the fit of clothes, but protects me from potential ickiness and indecent exposure. Depending on my mood when I get dressed, this can be a tee, tank, or camisole.
  5. Something to go over item #4: Just like the skirt, but for the top half of my body. I choose top and bottom separates, rather than a dress, for versatility: with a dress, if I want to try on a top, I have to take the whole thing off. With a top and skirt, I can just swap out the piece in question, and get a better idea of how the item I'm trying on will work with other clothes. (Hooded polka-dot vest, Demanding by Say What?, thrifted)
  6.  Wristwatch: Although this gets in my way as much as it helps, I like to keep track of time so I don't inadvertently spend hours combing through the racks. (Nicolet, TJMaxx)
  7. Comfortable shoes: Thrifting means quite some time on your feet - unless you're really lucky, you're going to spend quite some time sorting wheat from chaff. Comfy shoes are a must. In an ideal world, I'd wear slip-ons to make changing and trying on shoes easier. In an ideal world, slip-ons would fit my feet comfortably and not slip off whenever I take too vigorous a step. Compromise is key. Plus, I just got these and I'm still having the ooh-shiny-new-toy reaction (and breaking them in).
  8. Belt: As an hourglass-shaped girl, I'm pretty much a compulsive belter (defined waistlines are my friend!). Wearing a belt that I know fits and works on my body means I can play with belting garments without rolling the bones on the store's selection. (Aldo, thrifted, remixed)
Not pictured, but also key:
  1.  Favorite bra: I want to make sure tops lie right over my bust, so I wear a nude, smooth-knit, modified racerback bra that molds my bust into my preferred shape.
  2. Colorful undies: On the other hand, I want to know if a skirt's a little too sheer to wear without a slip - or if I should just avoid hot-pink panties while wearing it.
  3. No-show socks: These provide just enough coverage to keep me from getting blisters by wearing my shoes barefoot (I hate wearing closed-toe shoes without socks!) and also protect my feet from the floors at the thrift store.
Also, check out what you can't see - makeup and jewelry. I don't wear any jewelry beyond my wedding ring and infinity hoop earrings (that never come off) and watch (which serves a function). Earrings, necklaces, and bracelets can catch and pull when you're taking things on and off - I've nearly lost earrings by having a shirt pull them out of my ears as I pull it over my head. As for makeup, I know how easy it is to get a lipstick stain on an otherwise-great piece of clothing (and how hard it is to get it out). When I've got a thrifting expedition planned, I put on waterproof/smudgeproof liner and mascara and a little cheek stain and skip lip color entirely.

Nicolet watch, Coach bag

I know it's only a small bag by my standards. I've never been an itsy-bitsy clutch kind of girl - there are too many things I want to have on hand. What have I got in my pocetbookses, Precious?

purse contents

For a small bag, it holds a surprising amount. From top left, clockwise:
  1. Sunglasses and case: in case it's bright.
  2. Tiny folding umbrella: in case it's wet. Today was a toss-up, and at times I needed both.
  3. Smartphone: This is bar none my most useful tool while thrift shopping. I don't see the point in buying secondhand clothes (or even new-with-tags ones) from fast-fashion or low-end retailers. Many items from these sellers are cheaply manufactured and fall apart quickly - and that's an issue if you don't know how the original owner treated them! Despite my pretty broad knowledge of brands, I'm not familiar with every label on the market. Is Tiana B. usually sold at Kohl's or Nordstrom? A quick Google search lets me know if a tempting-looking item is worth my while.
  4. Coffee corset: When I start to get discouraged and worn out, it's time to stop for a cup of coffee or tea. 
  5. Hand santizer: As previously mentioned, clothes in secondhand shops are of unknown provenance. While I'm not usually too germophobic, I figure this is one of those situations when a little bit of caution can't hurt - especially if I want to stop for a snack.
  6. Three-foot tape measure: I can usually eyeball dimensions to a high degree of accuracy, but sometimes, it helps to measure to be certain.
...and, of course, my car keys and wallet.

Do you have a 'shopping outfit?' If so, what do you wear, and why?

1 comment:

  1. That is a cool outfit, and oh so functional! I just had a very similar moment standing in front of my closet. I only counted four summer-black skirts, but that's still including two that I almost never wear.


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