Ask Painfully Hip: What the heck should I do with all these oversized men’s shirts?

Hi Amber and Eve,
My dad was cleaning out his wardrobe and found a dozen button up shirts he didn’t wear anymore. He gave them to me :) but I don’t know how I could wear them or alter them to make them wearable. They’re pretty large. Do you have any tips?
Thanks!
Ronnie

hi ronnie!
amber and eve passed your question along to me, (because i LOVE to sew!), so i’m going to see what i can do to help you out here. (ps. how lucky are you to get all those shirts?!?! i’m jealous!)

ok, so i’ll admit that i did a little bit of a google search on the topic before i sat down to tackle it, and i have to say that i wouldn’t wish those search results on anyone. one especially fantastic message board was plastered with sentences such as “sow the sides of the shirt smaller and cut off the collier.” (i’m not even sure what a collier is on a shirt…) and fantastic fashion advice such as: “pop the collar, belt it with a wide neon belt, and wear matching pointy toed pumps and black leggings.”
frankly, i’m hoping we can do better than that. i don’t mean to offend anyone and their personal style, but i feel like that look is just… really over-done.

amber had a really awesome idea of cutting out around the collar (collier?) and turning them into poofy halter dresses. since i always have to take things a step too far, my reaction was, “yeah! and what if you left a strip connected to the collar, to make it a t-back?!” you could do this with or without the sleeves.

the main thing you need to figure out is if the shoulders fit. this is the key to wearing any over-sized top without looking sloppy (or like you’re drowning!): well-fitting shoulders. one of my favorite thrift store finds was this over-size silk blouse, that, believe it or not, is marked as an “extra small” because it fits small through the shoulders. (please ignore the walking cast on the foot i’m trying to hide!) because of the fit through the shoulders, i’ve been able to pair it with all sorts of things without looking like i was playing “dress up.” (well… my boyfriend strongly disagrees with that last statement, but i’ve found that the best response to that is “you chose me!!”)

oversized button-down

if the shoulders fit, unless you want to drastically change the look of the shirt, you don’t have to do much sewing. if they don’t… well then it might take a little more effort. if you have any experience sewing, you can take the sleeves off, re-size the shoulders and arm holes, and then re-attach the sleeves. you can re-size the shirt by using your favorite fitting top as a pattern (be sure to remember to factor in enough of a seam allowance!). if you don’t really have much sewing experience, you will probably want to get someone to help you with this (or email me and i can give you more detailed instructions).

if you detach the sleeves, sewing them back on can be a lot of fun – you can leave them big and puffy, or tighten them up. you can leave them long, or shorten them to any length – even cute little cap sleeves. right now i’m having a lot of fun leaving the cuffs on, shortening the length to around the elbow, and then buttoning the cuff to make a puff sleeve.

to change the actual shape of the shirt, you can do all sorts of things – you could add darts in the side or vertically, and give the shirt a more feminine shape. you could also take the sides in a bit. you could sew a channel around the waistline a run a ribbon through it to create a draw-string.

styling the shirt is going to be even more of a chance to get creative. you could always go with the popped-collar pointy-toed pump/matching belt look, but i’ve been having a lot of fun trying different things – belt it high with a skinny belt, and then wear something loose and feminine underneath for spring – short bloomers or lacy vintage tap pants, tall white stockings and broken-in over-the-knee boots (or vintage woven flats?). i want to find a mini crinoline and create a very full (short!) skirt look. tighten it around your waist with a belt and roll the sleeves up so you don’t lose yourself in all that fabric! you could leave it loose and full and button a snug-fitting vintage vest over the top, or even try the corset-over-shirt look. one of the advantages to leaving the shirts loose is that you can then pair them up with very feminine pieces and not feel too baby-dollish.

Got a question? Ask Painfully Hip!

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thrift star of the day: prairie dawn



outfit Wednesday 30th April 2008, originally uploaded by night.owl.

This is a perfect illustration of my thrifting advice regarding context. See this hanging on a rack in a thrift store and, yeah its cute, albeit a bit Laura Ingalls. But put in on a pretty girl with a chic, edgy haircut and sleek boots and it’s ferociously demure.

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thrift star of the day: victorian school marm with a twist



red sash, originally uploaded by stellardolly.

My first reaction when I saw this was, “Gah! It’s perfect! How does she do it?” and then after I read her blog I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one who changes her pants 6 times before she leaves the house. Good call on the dark wash cigarette jeans, they’re sufficiently sexy enough to contrast with the victorian school marm tendencies of the rest of the outfit and lend just enough casual je ne sais quoi to make it all seem effortless. Bravo.

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thrift star of the day: forties -inspired



Remixd: Uncomplicated., originally uploaded by sherbet tone.

Ah, Sherbet Tone. High-waisted flared tap shorts with ferocious platform pumps? Be still, my envious heart. It’s the perfect execution of the 40’s pin-up in a modern way. Plus? It’s ALL THRIFTED.

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thrift star of the day: soleil brilliant



25april08, originally uploaded by sunshine loves you for wardrobe_remix.

Time to stop complaining about your lack of Visa funds; this is how easy it is to dress like an Anthropologie model.

………………………

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Velocouture Bike Stars!

Lookit! A post from Eve!

Hubby and I recently moved closer to downtown so I got myself a beautiful metallic blue vintage Peugot. I’ve been fascinated by how it has changed my wardrobe. It’s a world where skirts are more functional than wide leg jeans and boots work better than sneakers (those pesky laces). I’m “skirting” those evil gas prices and riding around like a little green enviro-pixie. Velocouture is Wardrobe Remix on a bike. These are some of my favorites from the images that would allow themselves to be hotlinked. Check out the pool for all the best ones. I’ll work on a ‘check me out’ post so you can see my rad ride. Maybe I’ll include hubby with his red tartan and stripey socks. Just have to get him to track stand for long enough for the shutter to click.




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thrift star of the day: aqua fresh



Thursday 24th April 2008, originally uploaded by night.owl.

The simplicity of this outfit is so refreshing, I could brush my teeth with her. This color-combo is blowing my mind! The edgy hair and black loafers anchor it perfectly. She looks fashion-forward, yet totally at ease. I blame the delightfully cavernous pockets.

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thrift star of the day: vintage remixed



originally uploaded by it girl_rag doll for wardrobe_remix.

This is just too perfect. A genius way of taking vintage and making it modern. The scrap of fabric in her hair is the perfect dose of mischief. She’s just about to steal your cherry pie and take it to a cocktail party art opening.

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thrift star of the day: check out those stems



04.22.08 Happy Earth Day!, originally uploaded by corazones rojos.

his outfit is as fresh as a crisp morning spent eating a celery stalk in a dew-laden clover field. gorgeous. corazones rojos has got to be one of my favorite remixers.

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Ask Painfully Hip: Practically Plus-sized and Perpetually Perplexed

Hi, Amber and Eve.

I am ridiculously in love with your blog and read it to get inspiration almost every day. Unfortunately, it’s basically impossible for me to find thrifted clothing that fits me. I’m not obese or even officially plus-sized (yet) but I am big and curvy: a size 12 with a thick waist, broad shoulders, wide hips, and giant boobs. Most of the vintage clothing I find is sized for teeny tiny waifish girls and even if I find something that I can squeeze into, it’s never, ever flattering.

Skinny jeans don’t work, unless I’m wearing shirt that’s long enough to hide my thighs and hips. Trapeze dresses, shirts, and coats make me look like a circus tent because of my boobs. I can’t wear anything fitted with buttons up the front because they gap. A very slender silhouette doesn’t hide my bumps.

So I try to make my style my own with shoes, bags, and other accessories, but if you had any advice about clothing that a girl my size could pull off, I’d really appreciate it!

Thanks,
Stacy

Amber,

My body is kind of on the “thick” side, and I’m very anxious about wearing sleeveless or shorts. Do you have any suggestions or tips of stylish spring/summer wear?

thanks.
xx,
EM

Well ladies, I do tend to have ideas about these things so thanks for asking! There are plenty of ways to to flatter your loverly curves. Here are some spring/summer tips along with some universally flattering examples from our sponsors (click photos for more info and don’t forget the PAINFULLYHIP discount code!)…

No waistline to speak of? Fake it.
Sometimes even scrawny girls are lacking in the hourglass arena, so if your curves seem to be limited to the convex variety, fake a waistline. High-waisted pants are probably not the best way to go about it, unless you happen to have a flattish tummy – otherwise they end up looking like mom jeans. (EDIT: A reader has disavowed this highly-sanctioned myth, saying that what shall heretofore be referred to as the “Mom Jean Effect” is actually dependant on the cut of the jean and that most high-waisted jeans are actually quite flattering on her 12-13 sized frame. Thanks so much, Suzanne!)

Here are some pieces that should do the trick:

  • High-waisted A-line skirts – If you still want to take part in the high-waisted trend, A-line skirts flow out from the body and emphasize the smallest part of your waist without over-accentuating your belly.
  • Cardigans – with a nonchalant button or 2 done up at the waist
  • Cropped vests – adorable layered over scoopneck tanks and tees. Leave it open if your impressive boobs don’t allow for full closure.
  • Structured jackets with waist details and 2 button blazers – just make sure your jackets are really fitted in the shoulders or they’ll end up adding girth. There are lots of short-sleeved jackets for warmer weather these days!
  • Belts – obvious! Keep some wide black ribbon on hand for a quick and pretty alternative to wear with dresses.
  • Empire waists – obviously obvious. They simultaneously enhance the bustline and accentuate the smallest part of your torso.

    painted skirtvestjacketdenim sleeveless jacketbrown dresswhite empire

    Don’t be afraid to flash that epidermis.
    Sorry, EM, but its been proven (by some reeeeally bored scientists) that the human eye always tends to linger on the skin. And its not your luminous skin you’re trying to hide, is it? So show off your sweet freckles, lovely clavicle, voluminous cleavage or shapely legs and no one will even begin to take notice of last night’s beer binge bloat. Some flattering ways to show skin are:

  • Deep V and sweetheart necklines – they elongate the neck and show just enough cleavage for you to feel sexy without worrying about support bra sightings. Also, showing a bit of cleavage will break up the mammary “real estate” and actually minimize to the eye (probably one of the reasons that wearing a clingy crewneck sweater over a torpedo bra was considered a tad risque in the 50’s).
  • Halter necklines with wide straps – supportive, flattering and sultry, they showcase your covetable cleavage and minimize broad shoulders
  • Cap and Flutter sleeves – the closest thing to sleeveless with a comfortable and feminine slimming effect
  • Cut-outs and sheer fabrics – of the tasteful variety. I’m not talking heart-shaped cutouts all down the sides of your tapered acid washed jeans or a black chiffon tunic that shows your bra, c’mon now. A touch of sheer lace here and there won’t kill you.
  • Bermuda shorts and gauchos – when hitting at the knee will cover any smidge of cellulite and accentuate the slimmest part of your leg. Try em with calf-shaping wedges or heels if you’re not convinced.
  • satinfloral topflutter dresswhite lace topgauchosmaxi dress

    If you still really hate your legs try (1) layering a maxi dress for your warm weather wallows, (2) sheer tights are an option this season, or (3) getting over it – they’re what you’ve got so love em and don’t let them hinder your thirst for fashion – plus it’s amazing what a little bit of self-tanner will do.

    Shop vintage and learn to sew.
    I’m having a hard time believing that you can’t find anything in thrift stores that fits you! I always find the cutest stuff neglected in the plus size section! Try taking a supportive but honest friend with you who will encourage you to be more adventurous and always try things on! If you still can’t seem to find anything flattering in your size, try eBay or vintage sites that sort by size. Make sure you go to a seamstress to get proper measurements (or learn how to do it on your own) before buying online. 50’s silhouettes are always flattering (hello, hourglass era!), but when in doubt buy larger than you think and learn to alter the bodice and sleeves to fit and/or flatter. Its really not as tough as you think and always worth it in the end if you find something that you really love.

    houndstoothred sundressorange suede jacket

    Or look for all the cute vintage-inspired pieces that have been popping up in boutiques lately which tend to be more flattering and well-fit than actual vintage clothes. You may have to spend a little more, but it may be worth the time saved.

    francescateal tie-neckblack cutout dressjumper

    Above all, own it.
    No matter how much advice I spew, none of it will do any good if you’re not confident in your own skin. You can pull absolutely anything off if you feel like rockin it (mind-bending outfits have been rocked which were historically known to be entirely un-rockableCASE IN POINT), but until you reach that point, try to play up your favorite attributes. You’re more beautiful than you think – the flaws that you believe are constantly glaring out at the world like a large goiter are most likely only visible to you. Be unrepentant. Be happy to be you. Wear your personality and creativity with the confidence that you know exactly who you are and what you love, and eventually your peacock swagger will appear, along with the realization that you really are precisely as hot as you feel.

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