|Portland camellias, March 2012|
Spring has sprung here in Portland, with camellias, crocus, and daffodils abloom. And these transitional, thirty-degree temperature spikes and drops in a single day always make me reconsider, cull, and seek to fill gaps in my wardrobe. What works for December weather doesn't in April, let alone August. It takes time and effort to dress well, for the season, and for daily temperature shifts, and I don't often succeed at all three. I'm usually running late in the early morning, for one. My leather boots need a good shine. I'm in jeans most days because of working at an elementary school where fashion meets the practical requirements of running after kids with grubby hands. And when commuting on public transportation instead of driving, it's even hard to wear heels anymore, those pretty, pedestrian torture devices. Then home, I'm usually in some ghastly version of comfies: men's pajama pants, long-sleeved cotton shirt (hand-me-downs from former outside wear), thick socks, and an old sweater—because old houses are cold and the Northwest is damp. Comfort vies with style—whatever to wear when appearances mean so much?
|handknit (by me) wool cardigan; thrifted Banana Republic pinstriped wool pants;|
BCBG leopard heels (Nordstrom Rack)
|thrifted: St. John dress ($20), vintage mohair cardigan ($2)|
For the last three and a half years, I've shopped for clothing exclusively at thrift stores, mostly Goodwill. And so I dress better than before, mostly because I can afford enough clothes for mixing and layering, key to it all, plus being able to switch out pieces that don't work and find better. I could never afford to do so before when shopping sale retail (J.Crew and Macy's) or at discount (T.J.Maxx and Marshalls), and now my clothes don't all look like they've come from the same place—because they haven't. I buy mostly wool, silk, and linen in better quality brands like Ralph Lauren as well as boutique and vintage labels when I can find them, which is rare. But the digging and results are worth the effort.
|handknit (by me) wool/silk/bamboo scarf; thrifted Helen Hsu NY dress ($4)|
Last weekend at the Powell Goodwill, I found three new-to-me layering pieces, potentially versatile for Portland's spring and summer into early fall, but hadn't had time to check how they'd work with my existing wardrobe. I brought home a like-new, olive-green CP Shades (made in Sausalito, California) boxy linen jacket ($8); a new-with-Anthropologie-tags, lightweight-linen Hero & Leander by Velvet cardigan in a bronzed brown ($7); and an Old Navy, cap-sleeved polyester dress in a black-and-white animal print ($7). Though the first two were obvious keepers, I normally avoid both Old Navy and polyester, but this dress seemed worth consideration, mainly for the print. I'm still not convinced it's worth keeping, though, and it's a bit too large.
|thrifted: CP Shades linen jacket, Old Navy print dress; blue silk scarf|
|thrifted: Hero & Leander linen sweater, Old Navy dress, blue silk scarf|
Normally, I have no problem paying a good tailor for alterations on quality materials and construction, but $30 in alterations for a cheap Old Navy poly dress that probably didn't even cost $20 new? It's not worth it. Should I keep it to wear with layers—make it work—or return it for store credit? Time to review my main rules for buying secondhand clothes. Aside from being well constructed of natural materials in good condition, any piece must 1) fit my body well (or be worth altering), 2) make me feel attractive, and 3) be a gut-level "yes" rather than a "maybe." So this cheap Old Navy print dress—duplicated in thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions?—is a "no" on all counts. Back it goes.
|thrifted: Hero & Leander sweater, TLH by Hype dress|
|thrifted: CP Shades linen jacket ($8), Helen Hsu NY sweater dress ($4)|