Reader Andrea sent me this plea:
I and a friend own a dog training business, so we could wear anything we like. However the job itself puts limits on it. I can’t wear anything delicate, easily snagged or damaged or anything fussy. Drapey sleeves, dangling scarves or anything that hangs away from the body poses a serious problem with the mouthy pups we work with daily! We also can’t wear anything too dear as destruction via tooth or claw (or drool!) is an issue. Comfy, sensible shoes are a must. I find myself wearing boring old tshirts and jeans with a zip up hoodie most of the time.
Do you have any advice for us gals who need to dress in a utilitarian manner? I’d love to add some interest and to appear stylish.
I’m sure very few of you are in Andrea’s EXACT situation, but know there are plenty of moms to tiny kiddies, art teachers, and women working in the great outdoors who would love to get on the stylish-yet-utilitarian train.
I think my main advice would be this: THRIFT. Anything you buy that’s used and cheap won’t cause as much sorrow if the pooches/kids/hawthorn-bushes make mincemeat of it. Nab skinny jeans with stretch or funky colored cords, embellished tees or durable and washable blouses. Seek out quality fabrics and well-made goods at thrift and consignment shops and you’ll get cute looks for less.
Any woman who does work that is potentially messy and damaging to clothing but is also extremely ACTIVE needs close-fitting tops that allow her to move. I think jersey knit garments are your best bets. Even sweaters could snag on puppy teeth or get damaged by an overzealous tot. So scour that thrift store for printed long-sleeved tees, tees with embellishments that you like (preferably near the neckline), patterned/striped/polka-dotted tees, and great, vibrant colors. Layer for added interest – a deep-v long-sleeved tee over a contrasting tank top, a long-sleeved tee under a short-sleeved one, a fun tee peeking out from a crinkly cotton button-down with the sleeves rolled up.
Depending on the vocation and situation, a leggings-and-tunic look could work for a gal leading an active lifestyle. Durable, washable, well-made tunics are a must, so hunt those down in person and online. The leggings, on the other hand, can be cheap. Even high-quality, spendy leggings aren’t going to stand up to REAL wear and tear since they’re basically a tight, thin layer of spandex and cotton. Up to you, of course, but I’d say go Target, Sears, etc. for the leggings, if this look appeals.
Now, if you’re willing to invest some bank in a few nicer pieces, scope out vendors who cater to athletic women, like Title 9 and Athleta. There are tons of sport-specific garments on these two vendor websites, but both companies also sell “lifestyle” garments with the same durable, washable fabrics and quality construction, but a more fashion-y bent. Hit up the sale section and snag a tunic or dress for those days when pants and a tee just don’t feel fun enough.
Finally, check 6pm and Amazon for funky, inexpensive boots. I imagine that closed-toe shoes are a must, and believe that, styled correctly, boots can be worn pretty much year-round. (Unless, of course, you live in a hot and humid climate – in which case, try Mary Janes or Dansko closed-back clogs.) My advice is to avoid athletic sneakers as much as you can; It can be quite a challenge to make puffy cross-trainers look chic. Invest in a few pairs of cheap but interesting boots, and rotate them out when they get too worn.
Images courtesy athleta.com.
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