The Working Closet

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in my closet, right now: 5 things I swore I would never wear again

I bought a denim jacket this week. I’m still a little startled every time I walk in the closet and see it hanging there.Gap 1969 Denim Jacket

I’ve been going back and forth in my head for a while (a long while, like perhaps a year or so) about the denim jacket. I see them on other women my age and they’re adorable  — the perfect mix of casual-yet-tailored — and I think ooh I need a denim jacket! But then I think about actually wearing the denim jacket and I’m terrified that I will look like a middle aged lady trying to relive my high school years.

I probably need to get a life over here. Seriously.

Anyway, I bought the jacket this week because I had a coupon at the Gap and I wanted one that was nice but not like $150 worth of nice, and also not pre-distressed because that’s just not me. And on my way home from the mall I started thinking about all the other pieces in my closet that have somehow made the move from Things I Will Never Ever Wear Again So Help Me God to Things I Wear All the Damn Time.

To wit:

Denim shirt: The denim shirt always baffled me. What did you wear it with? Jeans? No way. I know denim-on-denim (or the Canadian Tuxedo) is a Thing these days, but I just…can’t. And I grew up in New Mexico where the denim shirt was cowboy wear, which is totally not me. In the 80s I remember wearing oversized chambray shirts (with STIRRUP PANTS you all OMG) buttoned all the way up and fastened with a big blingy broach, which is also a look I do not want to revisit. But then at some point the denim shirt lost its cowboy connotations and became a less uptight substitute for the white button down and I was totally smitten. And now I own four denim shirts and I’m in the market for a fifth (because how fab would a denim popover be???).

Puffer vest: There is a big part of my brain that doesn’t understand the vest. It has no sleeves! It has no point! How does it keep you warm??? Why not just put on a coat and be done with it?!? But there is another part of my brain that is totally seduced by the puffer vest over a blazer or under a pea coat or paired with skinny pants and a slim tee. And that’s how I wound up owning a vest. And wearing it all the time. (Although when it’s really cold, I put on a real coat because my arms get cold. Seriously.)

Navy blazer: Like most of the pieces on my ABSOLUTELY NOT OH WAIT LET’S RETHINK THIS list, the navy blazer was something I loved in high school. I stole the one my mother had bought for herself, which had wide lapels and huge gold buttons and a hemline that hit right at the widest part of my backside. And I wore it everywhere (or at least everywhere I wasn’t wearing a cotton sweater tied around my neck). In my mind, the navy blazer was what Yuppies and Young Republicans wore, and I am certainly neither of those (any more). But then Rachel persuaded me that the navy blazer could be hip and cool and indispensable, and that it went with everything, not just pencil skirts and Oxford shirts. It’s still a fairly conservative look, but I’m hopeful that I’ve made mine less GOP wife and more hipster creative. Either way, I wear it aaaaaaallllll the time.

Sweatpants: I own yoga pants. I own yoga capris. I own cashmere lounge pants (yes, really!!!). But you know what? This winter I decided that what I really needed was a pair of old school sweatpants. I wanted the kind that tie at the waist and are skinny all the way down, but I wound up with a pair that have the elastic at the ankle (although they still tie at the waist and do not bunch or bulge, which was a HUGE deal for me). They’re perfect for the days I go to the gym to swim, or for lolling around the house after I run. And while I still believe that treating sweats like real pants is a sign that you’ve given up, I think tossing them on after a hard swim or a long run counters that. And they’re so damn comfortable, you all. For real.

And, of course, the denim jacket: Since I just brought this home 48 hours ago, it has not achieved the same kind of workhorse status in my closet that these other pieces have, but I can already see the value. For the longest time I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly the last layer is on a day that is cool but not cold (like many days here in OKC) and with an outfit that is distinctly casual (like most of my ensembles). The last straw came on Sunday night when we went to dinner at my in-laws. It was 60-something degrees out but getting cooler; I was wearing a striped tee and pair of cropped printed pants. I needed one more layer but my blazer was too much and my vest was too warm and what else is there??? Well, there’s the denim jacket (except that I didn’t have one that night, sadly). I’m going to have to play with how to style the jacket so that it is age-appropriate, but I think I can make it work. And unlike the denim jacket I owned in college, this one is a slim cut and doesn’t look like I stole it from some boy. (I’m pretty sure I bought the one in college in the men’s section because there were no really good women’s options, in fact.)

What’s the lesson here? I don’t know. Style is cyclical? Never say never? Keep reaching for the stars? I have no idea. But I do know that I still won’t wear black and orange together, and I will never put a pair of stirrup pants on again. Ever. I swear.

Is there anything in your closet that surprises you? What’s on your NEVER AGAIN list that you might be willing to revisit?

Photo via Gap

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18 comments on “in my closet, right now: 5 things I swore I would never wear again

  1. Shelly
    January 15, 2014

    i just had a flashback to 1984 with 13 year old me in a long denim shirt & stirrups. I think I may owe my teenager daughter an apology for questioning her wearing of colored skinny jeans & converse all the time.
    I love the denim jacket look but like you thought I would never wear that look again. It’s adorable with khakis & colored flats in the spring time when the weather is unpredictable.

  2. jenjf
    January 15, 2014

    I wore an oversized red foulard print shirt with a red blingy brooch with my tan stirrup pants and red Mia flats on the first day of high school. That brooch was key.

    • Susan
      January 15, 2014

      I’m going to have to dig through my photos and see what kind of horrible evidence there is of the brooch-and-stirrup pants years. Especially now that I know I’m not the only one. (Also? The big permed hair years. Good lord.)

  3. Jamie
    January 15, 2014

    Ah, stirrup pants… the memories!

    I bought a cream colored denim jacket on sale last fall. Waiting for the opportunities to wear it this spring and I like that it’s a little creamy and not stark white. That seems more grown up to me.

  4. Purdy Bird
    January 15, 2014

    So funny because I had a denim jacket a few years back (10?) and I never wore it. I think I could never figure out how to mix it in without seeming like an ’80’s throwback.

    I just bought a denim chambray shirt (or is it just a light blue if it’s a chambray?) and had to ask the sales person 1,000 times if it really was ok to wear with jeans now. I distinctly remember heckling my dad when I was a teen that a denim shirt and jeans was never ok and he wasn’t allowed to go out of the house in that. Ever.

  5. Thrift Store Mama
    January 15, 2014

    I used to be a yuppie and young Republican too!

  6. Gina
    January 15, 2014

    Once again…as if written from my head…oh how I remember the Exact denim shirt I SO wanted from the Gap and wore it with stirrup pants and those elf boots (that actually resemble some I’ve seen lately. I’ve always loved denim shirts but now that I pretty much wear jeans daily, don’t own one. I just don’t really like that look. Same thing with the denim jacket- like you, mine was from the men’s section. I like the idea of a cream colored one though.

    Susan, I could see you liking Molly Ringwald…

    • Susan
      January 15, 2014

      Ooh, Breakfast Club Molly Ringwald was my style ICON for I don’t know how long. I loved that look. (Although we just watched 16 Candles again and wth is with those pink hose she wears to the dance??? So bad. So, so bad.)

      • Gina
        January 15, 2014

        I know! I caught it on cable recently too….what happened to Jake Ryan? Loved those movies and Molly.

        • Susan
          January 15, 2014

          He lives in someplace like Wisconsin or Minnesota and makes furniture for a living! (I may have Googled him after we watched the movie. Possibly. Hahaha.)

  7. Sarah Cunningham
    January 15, 2014

    Stirrup pants: I know they should not come back but if they did…I wouldn’t argue. I would buy a proper color for a Lady of My Age (navy) and enjoy the hell out of them. Remember when we wore pleated wool shorts with tights and flats? Topped with an oversized wool blazer (not unlike the one you described!). It was a look I rocked as my “dress up for church” style.

    Yes, there are photos.

    Things on my “Wear it now, but wouldn’t touch it back then” list:

    Dresses. I was into skirts, but loathed dresses. It took me a long time to figure out what a comfortable dress was.

    White denim jeans. I buy them, purge them from my closet after a year or two because they were too heavy/too light/too baggy/too tight and never worn. And then I end up investing in them again and again because I think, “Well, I need those!”

    Heels. I was a flats or tennis sneakers kind of girl until the late 90s, when I started wearing blocky, chunky heels. (Now I wear straight up pumps and classic heels most of the time.)

    And we share the same opinion on a proper pair of sweatpants. After years of wearing yoga pants, I wanted something classic and old school to wear post workout. I love them.

    • Susan
      January 15, 2014

      Oh those pleated “dress” shorts. I had forgotten about those.

      And how about culottes??? I had a purple corduroy pair. No lie. I loved them. LOVED them.

  8. amyb
    January 15, 2014

    The denim jacket is fine as long as you don’t cove it with pins from your favorite new wave bands ;-)

  9. Kate
    January 15, 2014

    Jake Ryan lives in PA. TOTALLY went down that google black hole a few years back and I still remember.

  10. Ellen W
    January 15, 2014

    I had a short sleeved denim shirt from the Gap (with snaps instead of buttons) that was part of a Rush outfit in the late ’90s. I wore that shirt for at least five years. I wouldn’t mind having another one to wear over tank tops and sundresses when it is brutally hot Houston weather but with icy air conditioning inside.

  11. Lyssann
    January 16, 2014

    ditto on the denim jacket, but I wear mine all the time. I throw mine over dresses all the time if I need them to be a little warmer.

  12. {sue}
    January 18, 2014

    Oh, what a walk down memory lane! I also rocked the oversized, off-the-shoulder sweater from The Limited and the occasional Gunne Sax dress. And I think I may still have my Gap stone-washed denim jacket with the BIG shoulders from 1985. I don’t think I’d wear any of them again, but I’d do a poodle perm in a heartbeat!

  13. Martha
    January 19, 2014

    That is the trouble with saying never isn’t it? I was so happy when stirrup pants finally went out of fashion……but IMO leggings and pixie pants are almost the same thing! Fashion is definitely cyclical.

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