Shabby to Chic: Buying the Right Pieces

Sprinkled throughout this blog are style tips that aim to help you take outfits from shabby to chic without having to try too hard.  Among some of them are getting properly fitting clothing from the Wardrobe From Scratch series, turning plain basics into an outfit – post #1 and post #2, and of course accessorizing.

Today’s style tip is about choosing the right pieces to make feeling put together easier.
The other day I talked about this black lace tank I bought from Target (post here).  I was wearing it nonstop for a while because it was really easy to throw on–just as easy as a normal black tank–but it looked so.much.better.  That made me think about the standard “frumpy” outfits (at least, the ones that you guys describe to me from your “style challenged” days) and which pieces could be swapped out for similar but slightly modified pieces that feel the same but look much, much better.
For instance, here’s one of the “frumpy” outfits that you guys have described to me and that I see often:
Black tank top, comfy jeans and flip flops.  Anyone want to own up to this one?  Don’t worry, the real reason I know this outfit is because I used to default to this back in the day.
But, compare it to this:
Still a black tank and comfy jeans, but way more polished in my opinion.  The pieces are essentially the same as in outfit #1, just modified a little to be the right pieces for a more pulled together look.  When you have the right pieces, it takes much less effort to look pulled together.  I don’t have to try harder–I think just as little about outfit #2 as I do with outfit #1.  And honestly the slightly looser fitting tank in outfit #2 feels much more comfortable.
Outfit details (right):
Lace tank: Target (exact)  //  Jeans: Loft (similar)  //  Flats: Old Navy (similar, similar)
Tops – Instead of plain tops go for ones with detail, like lace, embellishment, special seaming, or a little structure.  You can read more about that and see more examples in this post on dressing cute in the summer.  There are plenty of tops out there in t-shirt / jersey material in the same shapes as t-shirts and tank tops that are extremely comfortable.  However, when they have their own details to give them interest they do more of the heavy lifting for you of creating an interesting outfit.
Jeans  Find jeans that fit you well.  They do *not* have to be skinny jeans.  They can be whatever cut you want, but make sure they fit well and don’t “pool” at the bottom or give you a muffin top or a saggy bum.  When in doubt, go with a darker wash.  Medium / dark wash always = more polished.
Flip-flops – I’m from San Diego, so flip-flops are what’s up around here.  But, there are many great alternatives like sandals and flats that are just as comfortable, just as easy to put on, just as easy to walk in, and are just as cost effective but help you look more polished.  For instance, now instead of flip flops I go for a pair of sandals like the ones I wear in so many of my outfit pics.
You can opt for a neutral flat, like the ones I showed above, ones in a solid neutral like brown or black or colored ones.  Just back away from the flip flops!  Haha.  I’m not even exaggerating, once I stopped wearing flip flops and swapped them for flats I got all sorts of comments about how I looked “so nice” even though I was wearing the same outfits I always wore, just without flip flops.  And my flats were not even exciting–they were plain brown.  So, don’t underestimate the power of even the most indiscrete shoe!

The idea is that dressing decently doesn’t necessarily have to mean more work for you.  By buying the right pieces you should be able to reach for pieces in a flash that will look great with minimal effort.  Good luck!
Scroll to Top